Cruz singled in a run in the fourth inning, ripped a three-run homer in the sixth and closed out his big night with the grand slam in the eighth as the Eagles moved into the winners' bracket in the five-team field. Faulkner will face No. 16 Texas Wesleyan, which beat Georgetown 9-1, Friday afternoon at 3. The rest of Friday's schedule has Mount Vernon Nazarene, a 7-4 loser earlier Thursday to Indiana Tech, facing Georgetown in an elimination game at 11. Indiana Tech will face the winner of Friday morning's game at 7 Friday night.
Faulkner starter Johnny Shuttlesworth, the Southern States Athletic Conference pitcher of the year, put in six innings of efficient work, throwing only 56 pitches and allowing only one run in improving his record to 13-1 on the season. Faulkner scored two runs in the second without the benefit of a hit, then began a hitting barrage in the fourth with Brook Boudreaux, Zak Colby and Cruz all driving in runs in a four-run uprising. Cruz's night got only better from there.
"I just tried to do my job like I'm supposed to, and that's to hit," said the junior from the Dominican Republic. "I'm here to help our team win by knocking in runs. I dreamed about this kind of game, but I kept it to myself. It was amazing for me."
Colby added three hits and three RBIs for the Eagles (48-10), while Boudreaux added a pair of hits and two runs scored. Daniel Puckett took the loss for the Warriors (32-17) allowing eight earned runs in five-plus innings. Indiana Tech managed only five hits, with one coming against Shuttlesworth. Preston Szuch, Ryan Smith and Dustin Spruiell each pitched an inning of relief to close it out for Faulkner.
"This was a good win for our team because it's the first game of the tournament and we were able to get off to a good start," Faulkner head coach Patrick McCarthy said. "Johnny came in and threw strikes and we were able to get him out of there and give some other guys some work. And what can you say about Michael. Travis (assistant coach Watson) saw him in the JUCO World Series last year and told me just the other day that we haven't seen the best of him yet this year. That may have changed tonight."
Remainder of action gallery coming Friday...