By Ben Stroup
Junior forward Kyle Baum added a pair of first-half goals and senior midfielder Ricardo Balmaceda added a little insurance as the Ohio Wesleyan men’s soccer team did what it does best Friday: win in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Baum’s tallies gave the Bishops a 2-0 lead heading into the break. Braden Andryk pulled visiting Milwaukee School of Engineering within one, making it a 2-1 game in the 59th minute, but Balmaceda ended the drama in the 87th. He collected a centering pass from Will Sharer before finding the back of the net to seal a 3-1 tourney-opening win at OWU’s Jay Martin Soccer Complex.
The game marked Ohio Wesleyan’s NCAA-record 38th Division III playoff appearance and 44th overall NCAA playoff appearance. The Battling Bishops won the NCAA Division III national championship in 1998 and 2011 and have made 10 appearances in the national semifinals.
Baum, who was a key member of Olentangy Liberty’s 2012 state championship team as a senior in high school, is no stranger to big-time games … and he made his presence felt almost immediately.
The OWU (16-4-2) junior opened the scoring less than five minutes into the action, cleaning up a cross from the left side that MSOE (14-5-1) goalie Sean Stelter couldn’t handle. Baum scored from point-blank range off the rebound.
While the tone-setter was somewhat a case of being in the right place at the right time, Baum’s second, which came 10 minutes before halftime, was all about skill. After Balmaceda won a ball near midfield, Brian Schaefer sent a through ball ahead to Baum, who was streaking toward the right side of the box. Baum dribbled to the top of the box where — with a defender in seemingly perfect position — he ripped a shot to the far post and past a diving Stelter to provide what proved to be the game winner.
Two shots, two goals, a 2-0 lead the Bishops parlayed into a date with Calvin in the second round.
Calvin (21-0-1), which beat Mount Aloysius 1-0 in Friday’s second game in Delaware, won the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament with a 3-0 win over Alma last Saturday.
The Knights won the MIAA championship with a 14-0 record in conference play and are ranked No. 1 in this week’s NSCAA Division III poll and No. 3 in this week’s D3soccer.com poll. The Knights are making their eighth NCAA Division III playoff appearance in the last nine seasons and their 14th overall appearance.
The teams have played seven times in the NCAA Division III playoffs, with Ohio Wesleyan holding a 4-2-1 advantage in those matchups, including a 2-1 Battling Bishop win in the 2011 NCAA Division III national championship game. Last year, the teams played to a 1-1 tie in the second round, with Ohio Wesleyan advancing on penalty kicks. OWU leads the all-time series, 7-3, with one game ending in a tie.
Today’s second-round showdown between Calvin and Ohio Wesleyan is slated to start at 5 p.m. back at the Jay Martin Soccer Complex.
OWU Sports Information contributed to this report.