COLUMBUS, Ga. - No. 3 Faulkner's Southern States Athletic Conference tournament semifinal matchup with Shorter here Monday proved to be a battle for survival - literally and figuratively.
With the winner earning a berth in the tournament's championship game against No. 5 Lee, 10 pitchers allowed 31 hits and 22 runs. In the end it was the Eagles by a nose, holding off the Hawks 12-10 at Golden Park.
Faulkner faces Lee, which has yet to lose in the double elimination tournament, at 6 p.m. Monday night. If the Eagles win, a deciding game will be played Tuesday afternoon at 2.
It looked as if Faulkner would cruise to victory in the early going, racing to a 6-0 lead through two innings. Zak Colby
's three-run double was the big blow, with Daniel Cayton
and Brennan Olive
each adding RBI singles as the Eagles took control.
The Hawks fought back in a big way in the third, however, as Blake McCullers, Mike Miranda and Kendall Lacey all crushed long home runs to left off of Faulkner starter Nathan Prokuski
. The left-hander did survive the inning, which ended with the Eagles' lead trimmed to 6-5.
's two-run single in the fourth pushed Faulkner's lead back to 8-5, but Shorter scored one in the fourth and two in the fifth to tie the game at 8. Olive gave the Eagles the lead for good in the seventh, when he looped a two-run single to left to make it 10-8. Matt Creel
's infield groundout plated another run, and Faulkner led 11-8 through seven innings.
, Faulkner's fourth pitcher of the afternoon, was solid for 3 2/3 innings, allowing just two earned runs, both coming in the eighth on a single by the Hawks' Bobby Triglia and an RBI groundout by Miranda. With two outs in the inning, and Faulkner clinging to the one-run lead, head coach Patrick McCarthy
turned to closer Zach Sterling
, who struck out Hunter Smith to end the inning, stranding a Hawk runner at second.
's run-scoring single in the top of the ninth offered some insurance, and Sterling retired Shorter in order in the bottom of the ninth to close out the victory. Porter earned the victory and Sterling the save for the Eagles, who improved to 48-10 on the season. Stuart Charleston took the loss for the Hawks.
"We were out there for almost four hours and the temperature was in the 90s," McCarthy said. "I think that's the most heart I've ever had a team show. We gave up some runs, but we didn't walk too many. And Porter and Sterling really stepped it up when the game was on the line. I'm very proud of this team, regardless of what happens from here."
Olive, Colby and Tucker Willard
each had three hits to pace the offensive onslaught for Faulkner, which also got two apiece from Cayton and Creel. Willie Lewis, Antonio Walcott and Miranda all had three hits for Shorter. Faulkner pitchers walked just three batters while Shorter's walked seven, three of which scored in the Eagles' four-run first inning.
The Hawks, who should earn a bid to the national tournament when the bracket is announced next Sunday night, is 37-17.