HARDEEVILLE, S.C. - Auburn transfer Will Irvin turned in the most impressive performance of his senior season here Thursday evening, scattering six hits and not allowing an earned run as fourth-seeded Union shocked top seed Faulkner 3-1 in the final game of the first day of the NAIA Baseball National Championships Hardeeville Bracket.
The loss sends the fifth-ranked Eagles (48-12) to the brink of elimination, one loss away from ending their season short of their ultimate goal - a return trip to the Avista-NAIA World Series later this month. Faulkner will play the winner of Friday's first game between Asbury (Ky.) and host South Carolina Beaufort Friday evening at 5.
Irvin, a native of Salusbury, Tenn. who began his collegiate career with the Tigers, coaxed 14 ground ball outs, striking out eight Faulkner hitters without issuing a walk. The Eagles had five hits and left five runners stranded in the first four innings, but managed only one hit in their final five at-bats.
Faulkner starter Will Dismukes
(9-2) took the loss, allowing all three Union runs in six-plus innings of work. Faulkner's Craig Massey
and Matt Creel
each had two hits to pace the Eagles' limited offensive attack.
After Dismukes pitched out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam in the bottom of the first, the Eagles grabbed the lead with an unearned run in the third. Matt Darr
reached on an error to open the inning, and Brook Boudreaux
sacrificed courtesy runner Antonio Kendrick
to second. Tucker Willard
's infield groundout moved Kendrick to third, and Massey's high-bounding infield hit scored the game's first run.
The Bulldogs (39-17-1), which beat Asbury in Game 1 of the tournament Thursday morning, tied the game in the sixth when, after three singles loaded the bases with one out, Dismukes walked first baseman Kody Pinson to drive in the equalizer. He got out of the jam by getting an inning ending double play, but the Bulldogs were right back at it an inning later.
Leadoff hitter Danny Grimm singled to open the seventh for Union, moving to second when Dismukes hit Clint Barnes with his next pitch. Faulkner head coach Patrick McCarthy
then went to the bullpen, and reliever Damon Porter
issued a walk to the first batter he faced to load the bases with nobody out. Union catcher Doug Joyce, already with two hits on the night, then doubled to the right-center field wall, scoring two runs and giving the Bulldogs all the cushion needed for the first-day upset.
A Matt Darr
single in the seventh provided the Eagles their only baserunner from the fifth inning on, as Irvin continued to fool Faulkner hitters throughout.
Faulkner will look to Southern States Athletic Conference pitcher of they year Corey Black
to keep its season alive in Friday's elimination game. To earn a second straight trip to the NAIA World Series, Faulkner must win one game Friday, two more games Saturday and a final game Monday afternoon.