Pron’s clutch hit lifts W. Florida
Argos drop Mount Olive 5-3 to advance to title game
CARY, N.C. --- Greg Pron is one of the best hitters in West Florida history. So when he was at the plate in the seventh inning on Thursday afternoon against Mount Olive with a trip to the Division II national championship game hanging in the balance, the senior wasn’t about to let his team down.
The ball smacked off of his bat and sailed deep to left field, deep enough to drive in two runs and give the Argonauts the lead back against the Trojans in this riveting postseason showdown featuring two top-five nationally ranked teams.
Pron’s hit, like many others off his bat this season, was a difference maker. Now, the No. 4 Argonauts, a 5-3 winner against the No. 2 Trojans, will play on Saturday with a chance to win the program’s first national title.
Pron clapped his hands together and smiled from first base as he watched the two runners run across the plate after his big hit, and after the game, he talked about his ability to respond in a situation where being at your best means everything.
“That was the biggest sittuation I’ve been in in my life,” Pron said. “I had struggled early and made some small adjustments. He threw a slider in there, and I was able to get a hold of it.“
Pron has been waiting for that kind of moment his entire career at West Florida (51-9), and after spending his time here as a four-year starter, he was ready to help move his team one step closer to a title.
His head coach, Mike Jeffcoat, wasn’t surprised at all that Pron delivered against the Trojans (47-10) when it mattered most.
“Greg has been coming up with big hits for us all year,” Jeffcoat said. “I couldn’t imagine him going down in that situation. Timely hitting is key, and his hit helped bring the momentum back to our side.”
The key hit on a day when big hits were to tough to come by against a Mount Olive team that needed to win to stay alive in the tourney was the latest moment in a career that has been nothing short of remarkable.
Pron is the all-time leader in several categories, including RBIs. He has stolen 77 bases in his career, including 28 this season. The right fielder has been tough defensively as well, ringing up more than 300 putouts in his career.
“It’s been a great senior year,” Pron said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. My teammates have been great and I’m glad to be a part of this success.”
On Thursday, Pron failed to get a hit in his first two at-bats and came through with a single in the sixth. But until the rally in the seventh, the Argonauts trailed 3-1 and seemed destined to lose their first game of this tournament.
Everything changed in the seventh. Korey Domenick drove in two runs with a single to cut the deficit to 3-2 and with the bases loaded after walks to Taye Larry and Brandon Brewer, Pron seized the moment to give West Florida control of the game.
West Florida finished with eight hits. Mount Olive tallied seven hits and Zach Jadofsky earned the win in relief, working 3.2 innings. He did not give up a run, allowed only one hit and struck out two as well.
“I battled the entire at bat,” Pron said. “Having success has helped build confidence and I feel like every time I go to the plate, I’m going to be tough to get out. Things worked out for me again.”
Pron came into this game hitting .431 with 67 RBIs. He has hit 10 home runs on the year and has scored 56 times as well.
The 2011 Gulf South Conference and South Region Player of the Year has hit over .300 in each of his four years and is one of the main reasons West Florida is in contention for the title.
He reminded everyone of that on Thursday, and now, he has a chance to end his career with baseball’s ultimate prize. It’s tough for the senior to put into words what winning a championship would mean to him.
What he does know is that he and his West Florida teammates have the opportunity of a lifetime in front of them this weekend. The Argonauts were the No. 1 team in the country earlier this season, the first time that has ever happened, and once rattled off 22 consecutive wins.
“We’ve been working hard for this since the fall,” Pron said. “And now, here we are. It would be the greatest thing to win a national championship, Great for the program, the school and the city of Pensacola. I’m looking forward to making the most of the opportunity.”