COLUMBUS, Ga. - A long day ended on a positive note for the Faulkner baseball team. The third-ranked Eagles, who beat Auburn Montgomery here Saturday morning, finished off Southern Poly 14-3 just after midnight to remain alive in the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament at Golden Park.
Faulkner (47-10), which saw its 21-game winning streak come to a close Thursday night at the hands of Shorter, gets another shot at the Hawks Monday afternoon at 1 in the semifinals of the double elimination event. If Faulkner avenges the loss to Shorter, it must then beat No. 5 Lee twice to win the tournament.
The Eagles turned a three-run game into a blowout with an eight-run sixth inning, then coasted to victory in the game called by the 10-run rule after seven innings.
"It's been a long day, and our guys did what we asked them to do, and that's battle back from adversity," Faulkner head coach Patrick McCarthy
said. "Now we can get a little rest, and hopefully come back to Columbus ready to play on Monday."
After Southern Poly had scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull within three, the Eagles blew the game open in the sixth due in large part to the wildness of the Hornet bullpen. With the bases loaded and nobody out, three straight Eagles - Brook Boudreaux
, Tucker Willard
and Craig Massey
- drew RBI walks to build the lead to 9-3. Brennan Olive
and Cayton followed with run-scoring singles, and Colby joined the RBI parade by drawing the fifth walk of the inning. A Matt Creel
groundout scored the seventh run of the frame and pinch hitter Ray Johnson
's looping base hit to right drove in the final run of the Eagles' 35-minute at-bat, which mercifully ended with Faulkner leading by 11.
"We hit the ball tonight and were selective at the plate, and you need that late in tournaments," McCarthy said. "I was also really proud of our pitching staff. We ran five guys out there and I thought all of them did what we wanted them to do. It'll be a tall order, to win three more games, but these guys believe in each other and this team."
Faulkner jumped in front in the top of the second when Daniel Cayton
, who had walked and stolen second base, scored on Zak Colby
's single through the right side to make it 1-0.
The Eagles stretched their lead in the third. Matt Darr
opened the inning with a walk, and Brook Boudreaux
followed with an infield hit. Tucker Willard
drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases for Craig Massey
, who doubled down the third-base line to drive in two runs. Willard was thrown out at the plate on the play, but one out later Cayton singled in Massey to push the Faulkner advantage to 4-0. It grew to 5-0 when Cayton stole second, moved to third on a pass ball and scored on a wild throw by Hornet catcher Anthony Iglesias.
Faulkner starter Joey Grzywacz
didn't allow a hit until the Southern Poly fourth, when Jon White powered a fastball over the left-center field wall to cut the Faulkner lead to 5-1. The Eagles got the run right back in the top of the fifth when Massey's big night continued with a long home run to right.
Grzywacz worked himself into trouble in the fifth. With one out, he walked back-to-back Hornet hitters, then allowed two straight singles, the latter driving in a run to trim the margin to 6-2. With the bases loaded, Grzywacz struck out Devin Thaut for the second out but then walked White to force in a run. Righthander Cory Hamilton
then came on in relief and, after Kendall Wehrle powered a long drive that hooked foul, coaxed Southern Poly's big first baseman into an inning-ending groundout. Faulkner then put the Hornets to sleep with eight-run uprising.
Southern Poly (35-23), which was receiving votes in the latest NAIA poll, must now wait until May 6 to find out if it receives a bid to one of nine opening round sites of the NAIA National Tournament.