Lincoln Memorial wins two games on Sunday to claim first SAC title
FOREST CITY, N.C. -- Freshman Wes Todd capped the Railsplitters' magical run in the conference tournament by hurling a complete game on Sunday afternoon, leading fifth-seeded Lincoln Memorial to a 9-4 victory against No. 6-seed Carson-Newman in the championship game of the 2013 South Atlantic Conference baseball tournament at McNair Field.
Todd's performance put the finishing touches on a day that saw the Railsplitters overcome a loss to the Eagles in the morning by rallying with their backs against the wall for wins against fourth-seeded Newberry in the semifinals and Carson-Newman in the finals.
With the win, the Railsplitters bring home the SAC title for the first time in school history, along with the first conference title of any kind since 1959. The Railsplitters also received the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which will mark the first appearance for an LMU baseball team in the NCAA tournament in school history. The Railsplitters improved to 26-24 on the season with the two wins over Newberry and Carson-Newman, while the Eagles drop to 22-26 on the year and the Wolves fell to 29-22.
Senior and All-SAC First Team selection Curt Fuqua was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after posting a .381 batting average in the Railsplitters' five-game run including a tournament-best eight hits with a homer, two doubles, four RBI and five runs scored. The remainder of the SAC All-Tournament Team will be revealed after voting on Monday.
After falling to Carson-Newman to open the day, the Railsplitters faced elimination at 1 p.m. with a duel against fourth-seeded Newberry with a spot in the finals on the line. In that contest, the Railsplitters scattered 14 hits and overcame an early 6-1 deficit to rally for a 12-10 triumph over the Wolves.Six different players notched a pair of hits in the game, headlined by Josh Coker's two-for-four showing that included six RBI and four runs scored. Colin Buckner added two hits, three RBI and a run scored, while Nick Pressley tallied an RBI with three runs scored on a pair of hits. Cody Baker, Scott Miller and Nolan Woody fell as the other two mulitple-hit performers for Lincoln Memorial. With two hits in the game, Baker leapt Derek Treece for first all-time at Lincoln Memorial for career hits. Baker capped the SAC tournament with 230 career hits, three ahead of Treece's previous mark of 227.
The Railsplitters used an RBI single by Nick Pressley in the bottom of the first to assume an early 1-0 lead. However, Newberry had an emphatic response for that run by pouring six runs on the board in the top of the second. Ryan Cranmer's three-run blast late in the frame capped that scoring outburst by the Wolves, propelling them in front, 6-1.
Scott Miller got one run back for Lincoln Memorial in the bottom of the second with a sacrifice flyout, plating Colin Buckner who reached on a one-out walk.
After an uneventful third for the Wolves, the Railsplitters rallied for two runs in their half of that inning, as Colin Buckner plated Josh Coker and Nick Pressley with a one-out double. Still facing a 6-4 deficit, LMU regained the lead behind a four-run outburst in the home half of the fourth. Every bit of the scoring in that inning came off of the bat of Josh Coker, as he plated Nick Pressley, Curt Fuqua, Scott Miller and himself with a grand slam over the right-center field fence.
Once again, the Wolves fought back to the tie the game behind a two-run rally in the top of the fifth. Eric Barbieri tallied an RBI double and Bradley Nichols notched an RBI flyout to square the game at 8-8.
In the bottom of the sixth, the momentum swung back in LMU's favor after Andre Rodriguez led off with a home run over the left-center field fence. Colin Buckner plated another run with a single later in the inning to extend LMU's lead back out to 10-8.
The Wolves would tie the game for the final time in the top of the seventh, as they scrounged for two more runs thanks to an RBI single by Alex Kirby and a run-scoring fielder's choice by JoJo Bradley.
With the game squared at 10-10, Josh Coker made his presence felt yet again, as the junior notched his second home run of the day, this time plating a pair of runs to give LMU a 12-10 advantage with two innings left to play.
In the eighth, Ryan Cranmer reached on a throwing error to lead off the inning, however, the next three batters went down in order. In the top of the ninth, the Wolves went down in one-two-three order to propel LMU to the championship game of the 2013 SAC baseball tournament.
Ian Creager picked up the win over the Wolves after tossing 2.2 innings of perfect relief work. Creager did not allow a hit, a walk or a run over that span to improve to 5-3 on the season.
The win against the Wolves set up a rematch of the morning session, as the Railsplitters earned a chance at redemption against the sixth-seeded Carson-Newman Eagles for the title.
In that championship contest, freshman Wes Todd went the distance, tossing a complete game to lead the Railsplitters to the school's first SAC Championship. Todd only allowed two hits over the final six innings of action, finishing with a stat line that showed eight hits, three strikeouts and four earned runs to improve to 5-1 on the season. Todd fanned three batters to only one issued walk.
Carson-Newman did all of their damage against Todd early in the game, popping the freshman for a pair of runs in the visitor's half of the first. Joe Tipton scored on a wild pitch after leading off with a single, while Evan Jurjevic notched an RBI single later in the inning.
The Railsplitters promptly responded to that two-run outburst by plating three in the home half of the first, all of which came off of the bat of Nick Pressley. The senior followed singles by Scott Miller and Andre Rodriguez by pounding his first home run of the season over the 25-foot wall in left field to give LMU a 3-2 lead.
After an uneventful second frame, the Eagles used back-to-back RBI doubles by Cody Fox and Kevin Franchetti to regain the lead at 4-3.
As was the case for the entire tournament run, the Railsplitters found a way to overcome that deficit, as their bats were awoken in the bottom of the third. In that frame, the Railsplitters scattered five hits and took advantage of a miscue by the Eagles to plate five runs. Andre Rodriguez drove the first run home with a single, while Josh Coker notched a three-run, bases-clearing double later in the inning. Following a fielding error by the Eagles, Colin Buckner drove in the final run of the inning with a single to left field, shooting LMU in front, 8-4.
Andre Rodriguez gave LMU an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth with a sacrifice flyout to plate Brandon Morris, who led off with a single.
Following that run, the Railsplitters' offense handed the reins to Wes Todd, who sealed the deal by allowing only one hit and three total base runners over the final three innings to send LMU to a 9-4 victory.
Four different players notched multiple hits in the game for the Railsplitters, spearheaded by Andre Rodriguez's three-for-four outing that included two RBI and two runs scored. Nick Pressley chimed in with two hits, three RBI and two runs scored, while Josh Coker added three RBI on one hit. Tournament MVP Curt Fuqua piled on two hits with a run scored and Scott Miller went two-for-two with two runs.
With the 2013 Food Lion SAC baseball tournament title in hand, the Railsplitters earn the right to keep playing baseball this season. Lincoln Memorial will learn its postseason fate on May 12th with the unveiling of the bracket for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.