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No. 7 Panthers upend No. 6 Rhodes in NCAA South Regional elimination game

Photo by Alexandra Smith, Piedmont College Athletics
Photo by Alexandra Smith, Piedmont College Athletics

DEMOREST, Ga.—No. 7 Birmingham-Southern edged top-seeded No. 6 Rhodes, 3-2, in an elimination game Friday at the NCAA Division III South Regional, hosted by Piedmont in Demorest, Ga.

The third-seeded Panthers moved to 36-11-1 and will face second-seeded No. 18 Pacific Lutheran, who defeated BSC 7-3 Thursday evening, tonight at 7 p.m. EDT. It was the sixth meeting this season between the Panthers and the Lynx, with BSC going 2-1 against Rhodes in the regular season before Rhodes defeated the Panthers twice in Birmingham for the 2015 Southern Athletic Association title two weeks ago.

Rhodes opened the tournament with a convincing win over sixth-seeded No. 9 Methodist, but fell Thursday to fourth-seeded Marietta, 4-3. Back-to-back one-run losses end the Lynx season at 33-13, making them the second team to be knocked out of the tournament, following Methodist.

BSC jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and second. Junior Taylor McCracken doubled to lead off the bottom of the first, and scored on a double play ground-out moments later. Freshman Brayden Housel notched his third RBI of the season with a fielder's choice ground-out in the second, putting the Panthers up 2-0, although they left the bases loaded.

Rhodes had some missed opportunities throughout the game, putting two runners on but coming up empty in the first, leaving a man on third in the fourth, a runner in scoring position in the fifth and stranding two more in the sixth.

Sophomore Panther starter Stephen Himic (6-0, 1.13) worked his way out of trouble all day, leaving the game just moments before the Lynx finally brought a run home on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Justin Genter in the top of the seventh. A single, walk, and hit by pitch loaded the bags and closed the book on Himic, who left in line for the win behind a 2-1 lead. Senior closer David Bourbonnais, who had been playing first, took the mound and got Genter to fly out. He proceeded to walk the next batter before inducing a grounder to end the inning.

The Panthers got that run right back when sophomore Zach Wingate's two-out grounder to short was misplayed, scoring junior Matt Brown for the 3-1 advantage. Wingate's run-scoring error was the de facto game-winner. The error and run proved pivotal for both teams, as the two-run lead diminished when Rhodes started a two-out rally in the eighth.

Bennett Notestine singled to left with two outs, and stole second before pinch hitter Levi Greenberg picked the perfect time to tally his first RBI of the season with a single to center, bridging the gap to 3-2.

Lynx starter Blake Glauben (6-4, 2.34) continued to keep the game tight with a perfect eighth frame. The junior southpaw finished with eight innings, three runs (two earned) on seven hits, three walks and three strikeouts.

The ninth inning did not lack dramatics. Bourbonnais surrendered a one-out double by Genter to left, putting the potential tying run 180 feet away. He got the next batter to ground out to second, keeping Genter on second, before a grounder to short ended the ball game.

The Lynx out-hit Birmingham-Southern 11-7 in the game, but stranded 11 runners, including seven between the sixth, seventh and eighth.

McCracken and Brown led the Panthers offense with two hits and one run apiece. Genter and Notestine tallied three hits each for Rhodes, while Ryan Olive added two.

Himic remained unbeaten with his sixth win, while Bourbonnais converted the eight-out save for his ninth of the season. Himic lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on eight hits and a walk, striking out four.

Recap courtesy of PiedmontLions.com.