Methodist claims first USA South championship since 2004
ZEBULON, N.C. -- Brandon Thigpen homered and drove in three runs en route to tournament MVP honors and Methodist won its first USA South tournament crown since 2004 with a 10-2 win against LaGrange on Sunday afternoon.
The Monarchs, who claimed their third conference tournament title overall, banged out 16 hits on the day to back starter Michael Judge, who picked up the win allowing two runs on five hits with one strikeout in 7.0 innings. The 16 hits for Methodist were one more than the team had recorded total through its first three tournament games.
LaGrange scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Josh Shiver singled, moved to second on a sac bunt, took third on a flyball to right and came home on a wild pitch.
Methodist answered with two runs in the second to take a lead it would not relinquish. Travis Johnson led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a single by Alex Rodriguez. Chris Power followed with a double to right center that scored both runs and gave the Monarchs a 2-1 lead. MU stretched its lead out to 4-1 with two more runs in the third inning, including Stephen Nalls' RBI single.
After LaGrange cut its deficit in half (4-2) in the top of the fifth, Methodist plated two runs once again in the bottom of the inning to go up four (6-2). Nalls and Rodriguez had back-to-back two-out RBI base hits in the inning. The Monarchs put the game out of reach with four more runs in the eighth, the final blow being Thigpen's three-run home run to right that made it a 10-2 ballgame. For Thigpen, it was his third home run in four tournament games and his sixth of the season. He finished 4-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored.
Patrick Riley took the loss for LaGrange. He started and gave up four runs (3 ER) on nine hits in 3.1 innings.
Chris Power supplemented Thigpen's big day with a 3-for-5 showing at the plate. He drove in two and scored twice. Nalls finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored and Alex Rodriguez wwas 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Both players were also named to the All-Tournament team, as was pitcher Josh Ayers, who pitched the final 2.0 innings on Sunday allowing just one hit and striking out four.
Shiver finished 2-for-4 with a run for the Panthers and Brent Kinsey was 1-for-4 with an RBI.
The Monarchs, who are now 21-18 on the season, have earned the USA South's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Methodist is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts Guilford.