Ben Cejka struck out nine batters over seven innings Friday and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse baseball team opened its first trip to the NCAA Championships with a 7-3 win over Salisbury University.
It was a big night for the senior pitcher from Holmen. Cejka set the record for most strikeouts in program history with 191, tied the program mark of 18 career wins, and is now an inning away from becoming the record holder for most innings pitched with 234 1-3.
Cejka's night started with Salisbury runners at the corners with two outs, but he struck out Danny Breen to end the threat. He then struck out the side in the second to set the school record, breaking Tom Klattwitter's record of 185 from 1980.
The Eagles offense broke through in the second, producing two runs without hitting a ball out of the infield. Bryce Barsness reached on an error, Shane Adler followed with a sac bunt that was also misplayed by the Sea Gulls. Travis Buxton-Verstegen advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt before Joel Zyhowski bunted between first and the mound to drive in Barsness. Eric Vatch grounded out to drive in Adler and it was 2-0.
UW-L added three more in the 4th. Buxton-Verstegen doubled to right center, scoring Barsness. Vatch later hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Buxton-Verstegen, and Alex Cordova doubled to the wall in left center to plate Zyhowski.
The Eagles scored another run in the 6th after Cordova tripled to center field and was later driven in by Justin Anderson's sac fly to lead 6-0.
Cejka surrendered two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but responded with a scoreless 7th to exit the game leading 6-2.
Caleb Boushley pitched the final two innings for UW-L, who now faces Emory University at 7:45 p.m. Saturday night at Fox Cities Stadium. The Eagles tied the program record with its 34th win Friday night.