Ninth-inning rally not enough as Panthers lose to No. 25 Millsaps in SAA title game, 5-3

JACKSON, Miss.–After trailing 5-0, the Birmingham-Southern baseball team scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning but it wasn't enough to overcome No. 25 Millsaps in the title game of the Southern Athletic Association Championship, played at Twenty Field in Jackson, Miss.

BSC falls to 29-15, while the Majors move to 34-11. Although the SAA, as a new conference, does not yet receive automatic bids to the NCAA Championship, both teams have a shot at an at-large bid. The championship field will be announced this Sunday.

The Majors scored twice in the top of the first to start the game, scoring on a ground-out RBI by Stephen Gates, and then capitalizing on a BSC error to go up 2-0. They added another run in the top of the second on a squeeze bunt by Gates.

The game was scoreless until the top of the eighth, when an RBI single from Gates increased the lead to 4-0. The Majors then scored on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth to to up 5-0.

BSC tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Junior Jeremy Hatley led off with a walk, followed by sophomore David Bourbonnais getting hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. After a pitching change by the Majors, junior Ethan Netherton singled to left field to load the bases. Sophomore Jake Campbell grounded out for an RBI to break the shutout, and a ground-out RBI by sophomore pinch-hitter Tanner McGill cut the lead to 5-2 with two outs. Senior Stephen Denton RBI singled to bring Netherton across the plate and cut it to 5-3, but a strikeout by freshman Taylor McCracken ended the game to clinch the championship for Millsaps.

The Panthers had eight total hits, with Denton going 2-4 and McCracken going 2-5. Millsaps had seven hits, led by Samuel Doucet who was 2-3.

Junior Miles Nordgren, the 2013 SAA Pitcher of the Year, started for BSC and went five innings, giving up five hits and three earned runs to fall to 5-3 on the year. Bourbonnais threw 2.1 innings and allowed one hit and one earned run, and senior Blake Yance went the final 1.2 innings giving up one hit and one earned run with four strikeouts.

Keith Shumaker, the 2013 SAA Player of the Year, got the win on the mound for the Majors to move to 6-0. He threw seven innings while giving up five hits and no runs with three strikeouts. Harper Grier got the save, his third of the year, after pitching the final inning.