After a game that totaled 39 hits, 26 runs and had an official time of 3 hours and 57 minutes, the regular season co-champion Cougars have been the first team eliminated from the 2012 tournament.
Elon jumped ahead to an early 6-0 lead after their first two at bats, bouncing Charleston’s starting pitcher Josh Renfro after just two innings. Renfroe allowed eight hits and walked one batter, but none of his runs were earned because of errors in both innings.
Charleston got on the board in the bottom of the second, and then cut the Elon lead to two after scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth. The scoring continued for both teams throughout the rest of the game, until Charleston left the tying run on second base in the bottom of the ninth.
The teams combined to use 11 different pitchers, the last of them being Elon’s closer Nate Young, who earned his 11th save of the year.
Elon’s Ryan Kinsella paced the phoenix with a season high 5 RBI performance, while Jake Luce went 3-5 and scored three runs. Charleston’s Marty Gantt, the SoCon Player of the Year, and teammate Brandon Murray both had 4-6 days in the losing effort.
With the loss, Charleston’s hopes of an at large bid to the NCAA tournament are looking bleak. In the most recent predictions, the Cougars were named the last team in, but this could change after an 0-2 showing in tournament play.
Game #2: #8 Furman 9, #5 Western Carolina 8
With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Furman’s Will Muzika singled to left field, and was then moved to second on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Hunter Burton. That brought up third baseman Alex Abrams, who singled through the middle to score Muzika and give the Paladins the victory.
Abrams, a left handed hitter, replaced right handed hitting third baseman Chris Ohmstede in the bottom of the fifth to match up against Western Carolina’s right-handed reliever. However, Head Coach Ron Smith left Abrams in to hit against a new left-handed reliever, and the decision paid off.
Matt Solter earned the win for the Paladins after pitching a perfect top of the ninth. Western Carolina’s Preston Hatcher, an All-SoCon reliever, received the loss after allowing Muzika’s base hit to start off the ninth.
The Catamounts’ Ross Heffley started the scoring in the top of the first with a solo home run, but Furman responded by scoring five runs in the bottom of the frame. Western tied the game in the top of the 7th with a three run inning, and each team scored runs in the next two frames to keep the game deadlocked.
Furman’s starting pitcher Nate Smith was able to work out of bases loaded jams in both the third and fourth innings. He struck out five Catamounts before being replaced by Tyler Wood, the Paladins’ usual Sunday starter.
At the plate, senior co-captains Will Miller and Will Owens paced Furman with stellar days. Miller reached base safely in all five plate appearances, and was also 3-3 on stolen base attempts.
Miller said, “We did a good job of getting momentum, losing it, and not letting it get away from us. We continued to have good at bats throughout the game. In the end we had one more bullet in the chamber than they did.”
Abrams, the Paladins’ hero after his game winning hit, was embraced with hugs and handshakes from numerous fans after the post-game press conference. The sophomore from Charleston, SC was filmed interviewed by the local news, but he has not lost sight of the team’s goals.
“The big thing for us over the past couple of weeks has been our resiliency. We’ve taken some punches, but we’ve gotten right back up. We’re lucky today we got the final blow. It’s a testament to our senior leadership.”
Game #3: #6 Georgia Southern 8, #7 The Citadel 1
The Eagles of Georgia Southern continued to dominate in post-season play, as they have now outscored opponents 27-3 in the first two games at Fluor Field.
The big blow was delivered by Eagles first baseman T.D. Davis, who hammered a grand slam over the green monster in left field to give Georgia Southern a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the third.
That was all the run support needed for starter Justin Hess, who went six innings only allowing one run. Jarret Leverett earned the save the old fashioned way, throwing the final three innings.
The Citadel will face off with Elon in the first elimination game on Friday. With a 2-0 record, Georgia Southern has earned a day off.
Game #4: #4 Samford 12, #1 Appalachian State 7
Samford’s Brandon Miller, the nation’s leading home run hitter, added two more to his total as the Bulldogs slugged past the top seeded Mountaineers of Appalachian State. The two blasts make it 22 on the season for Miller, a senior out of Atlanta, GA.
Appalachian State’s starting pitcher Seth Grant, who came into the game with the lowest ERA in the Southern Conference, allowed eight earned runs in 4.2 innings of work. The Mountaineers pitching staff surrendered a season high 16 hits, as all nine Samford starters recorded at least one hit.
Appalachian State tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with a four run inning, but Samford bounced right back and held the lead for the rest of the contest.
The final game of Thursday’s action, which did not start until 10:50, lasted an official time of two hours and 45 minutes, eventually wrapping up at 1:35 in the morning.
With the loss, Appalachian State will face Furman in the second elimination game on Friday. The Mountaineers opened the tournament with a 7-5 victory over the Paladins.