DEMOREST, Ga.—Coming down to the final out of the game, the No. 7 Birmingham-Southern baseball team fell to Emory, 8-5, Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the NCAA South Regional, hosted by Piedmont College. The Eagles advance to Appleton, Wis., for their second straight appearance in the NCAA Division III World Series after also winning the South Regional in Demorest last season.
BSC ends an impressive season with a record of 37-12-1, while Emory moved to 30-13. It was the Panthers' second straight trip to the NCAA South Regional, and third post-season appearance in four years.
Every game of the tournament was competitive, with eight of the eleven contests being decided by three runs or less. In those eight games, all but one saw the tying run on base, at the plate, or on deck, and five of those seven games had the tying run on base.
Emory jumped on the board early in the bottom half of the first against BSC senior starter Blake Stevens, who jumped back on the bump for the Panthers just two days after throwing a one-run, nine-strikeout complete-game victory against Marietta College on the opening day of the tournament. With the nine strikeouts, Stevens climbed over 100 for the season and over 340 for his career.
The Eagles would call upon the young Jackson Weeg, who picked up a no-decision in the Eagles' first game of the tournament against Pacific Lutheran University, a game in which Weeg pitched seven innings and picked up 10 strikeouts. The dime-piece mark from the sophomore led all pitchers in the South Regional headed into this afternoon's contest.
Wes Peacock led off the game with a triple to later be knocked around by fellow senior Brett Lake in the opening frame. In the bottom of the fourth, Lake again singled to later be moved around by a Philip Maldari fielder's choice, setting up a first-and-third scenario with Ben Vizvary stepping up to the plate. Vizvary laced a double just inside the left field line that plated both runners for a 3-0 lead after four complete innings.
Weeg put up four straight zeros on the board against the Panthers, but BSC came alive in the fifth and sixth innings to stay in the contest. The Birmingham-Southern scoring began on a junior Matt Brown single that plated senior Brandon Marino for the first run against Weeg on the day. Senior Jacob Mayfield picked up a two-RBI double, blasting one to center field glancing off the wall to make it a 3-3 ballgame.
The Panthers put themselves in a position to blow the game wide open, but would be left empty handed as Weeg struck out two batters before a pop-out would strand the runners on second and third. Emory responded immediately in the bottom half of the fifth with four runs of their own, including a Peacock single that allowed the senior to reach the 200 career hit milestone, matching Lake who entered the 200-hit club earlier in the regional.
Wilson Morgan picked up two RBIs on a rocket down the left field line to plate Peacock and Chris Young. Vizvary picked up the remainder of his game-high four RBIs with a single that scored Morgan and Lake, giving the Eagles a 7-4 lead after five and chasing Stevens from the mound to make room for sophomore Ryan Gaines for the Panthers.
BSC responded once again in a back-and-forth game with two runs of their own, including another Mayfield RBI single, bringing his game total to three. Gaines held the Eagles for just one inning, leaving the score at 7-5 before allowing one run in the bottom of the seventh on a solo shot from Maldari who scorched an ankle-high pitch off the left field foul pole to give the eventual final score 8-5 in favor of the Eagles.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, Emory once again called upon sophomore closer Kyle Monk to finish the game. Monk appeared in four out of the five games this regional, including a dramatic five innings last night to pick up a season-saving win against Marietta. Already with a save under his belt from game number 10 earlier in the day, a line drive from junior Taylor McCracken with bases loaded landed in the mit of first baseman Jordan Selbach to seal the win as well as a trip to Appleton.
Weeg finished the regional 1-0 with 19 strikeouts and later was named the South Regional MVP. Also making the All-Tournament Team were McCracken, sophomore David Scott, and senior Paul Caudill from Birmingham-Southern. Emory's other All-Tournament selections were Vizvary, Maldari, Lake, and Monk.
Emory will now advance to their second straight NCAA Division III College World Series, where they became the dark horse with an early loss in 2014, but managed as comeback kids in the losers' bracket, winning four elimination games to advance to the National Championship game finishing as the runner-up.
Recap courtesy of PiedmontLions.com.