By: Drake Browne
The Southern Conference tournament returned to Greenville’s Fluor Field on Wednesday for the first time since 2009. Located in the heart of Greenville’s downtown area, Fluor Field is the home to the Greenville Drive, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The tournament will stay in the upstate of South Carolina for one more year, before moving back to its original home in 2014, Joe Riley Park in Charleston.
Game One: #7 The Citadel 8, #2 College of Charleston 6 (11 inn.)
In the tournaments opening game, the seventh-seeded Citadel Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead, and were able to hold on in extra innings to secure the upset over their cross-town rivals.
Charleston’s Christian Powell, who was recently named the SoCon Pitcher of the Year, was touched up for a season-high five runs, including four in the first two frames of the game.
With the Bulldogs leading 6-2, Charleston tied up the game with a four run eighth, capped by a bases loaded, 3 RBI double by pinch hitter Tyler Jackson. With the game tied at 6, the Citadel went to their closer, TJ Clarkson, who pitched the final 3.1 innings, only allowing one hit and struck out three.
In the top of the 11th, the Citadel plated two runs off of Charleston’s closer David Peterson. Clarkson then pitched a perfect frame, securing the victory for the Citadel.
Justin Mackert led the Bulldogs with a 2-for-4 effort, including a home run and 3 RBI. Clarkson’s win improved his record to 4-4 on the year while he also scored the eventual game-winning run.
In the post-game press conference, Clarkson said, “Today was a good accomplishment, but we are still focused on the task ahead. As long as we play good, clean baseball, and get some timely hits, we can beat anybody.”
Game Two: #6 Georgia Southern 19, #3 Elon 2
The Eagles of Georgia Southern put on an impressive showing at the plate, pounding out 23 hits on route to a 17 run victory over the third ranked Phoenix from Elon.
Three separate Eagles, Michael Burris, Chase Griffin, and Brent Pugh each had four hits, and Chris Beck once again was brilliant in the tournament, only allowing one run on five hits in 7.0 innings of work. Beck was named the MVP of 2011’s SoCon tournament.
The Eagles’ route began in the fifth inning, when trailing 1-0, they scored six runs to bounce Elon started Dylan Clark. The Phoenix bullpen then allowed runs in all of the following innings, including 9 in the top of the eighth.
With the win, Georgia Southern will advance to play The Citadel, while Elon and College of Charleston will face off in the first elimination game of the tournament, tomorrow morning at 10 AM.
Elon’s Alex Swim, a unanimous All-SoCon selection, said, “We have to put this one behind us. What has happened, has happened, and it’s not a big deal. We’ll just come out tomorrow swinging and play a lot better.”
Game 3: #1 Appalachian State 7, #8 Furman 5
Appalachian State survived Furman’s upset bid in the opening round of the 2012 tournament, winning by the final score of 7-5. The top ranked Mountaineers were able to capitalize on key Furman errors, and leave the tying run at the plate in the ninth to secure the victory.
With the score tied a one a piece, App State pulled ahead in the fourth inning, scoring four unearned runs in the bottom of the frame. Furman responded by scoring three runs in the sixth inning, but the Mountaineers responded by scoring two of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
Furman’s Bobby Lyne was awarded the loss, after allowing only one earned run over 4.2 innings of work. Stephen Gary came on for Lyne in the fifth, but errors also haunted his performance as he allowed two unearned runs in 1.2 innings in relief.
Furman’s Head Coach Ron Smith said, “We gave up one earned run. That says it all. We didn’t play the defense we needed to play to beat a team like Appalachian State.”
Appalachian State’s Ryan Arrowood earned the victory, improving his record to 10-0 on the year and setting a school record with his 27th career victory.
Furman’s Will Owens notched a game high three hits. In the post game press conference, he stated, “If we would have executed and played like we should have, we would have won that game. It’s not over yet, now we have to do it the hard way”
Game Four: #4 Samford 7, #5 Western Carolina 0
The Samford Bulldogs struck for two runs in their half of the third, fourth and fifth innings, as they rolled to victory over Western Carolina in the final game of the opening round.
Because of delay, the game did not officially begin until after 9:30, but that did not seem to phase Samford starter Josh Martin, who allowed only three hits over his seven innings of work. The win improves Martin’s record to 12-1 on the year, which continues to be the most in the league.
While Western Carolina committed four errors, only one of their runs allowed was unearned. Samford collected 13 hits, with slugger Brandon Miller being the only Bulldog not to hit safely. Miller’s 20 home runs leads the SoCon, but it was his teammates that did the heavy hitting tonight.
Samford center fielder Phillip Ervin posted a 3-5 night, while shortstop Austin Allison drove in 3 RBI and also scored two runs.
With the victory, Samford will advance to take on top ranked Appalachian State at 8pm on Thursday night. Western Carolina will meet Furman in the elimination round, first pitch scheduled for 1:00 at Fluor Field.