CNU rallies to top No. 1 Shenandoah
Captains stun Hornets late to win USA South title
BURLINGTON, N.C. -- No. 4 Christopher Newport rallied to beat No. 1 Shenandoah 5-4 and win the USA South Conference Tournament championship Sunday afternoon at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
The win gives CNU (35-4) the league's automatic berth into the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Shenandoah (31-4), led 4-3 entering the bottom of the eighth inning only to see the Captains rally for the victory.
Matt Shoemaker led off the CNU eighth with a single before moving into scoring position on a sacrifice. Billy Steel, the tournament MVP, singled through the right side to tie it before Drue Vernon brought home Steel for the eventual game-winning run with a two-out single on a right field.
Vernon is in his second year with the Captains after starting his collegiate baseball career at SU.
Kevin Brashears drew a leadoff walk to start the ninth for the Hornets and moved to second base on a sac bunt, but CNU closer Ryan Fleischman struck out the final two Shenandoah batters to earn the save and give the Captains the title.
Christopher Newport took a 1-0 lead thanks to Luke Saunders' first-inning solo homer down the left field line. Cory Nelson answered for Shenandoah in the Hornets next at bat by doubling and eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly.
SU took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on a run-scoring groundout and then jumped ahead 4-1 when Keaton Neeb' knocked a two-run single down the left field line in the sixth.
CNU cut the deficit to two on a Ben Lenda' solo homer in the sixth before bringing it to 4-3 with Shannon Mark's' RBI single through the right side.
Matt Verdillo, who also made the all-tournament team for the Captains, pitched two innings of shutout relief to earn the win.
Christopher Newport's Saunders, Shoemaker and Connor Madden were also selected to the all-tournament team, along with Brashears, Greg Van Sickler, and Kyle Scallion for SU.
Van Sickler finished 3-for-5 with one run scored to lead Shenandoah at the plate.