GREENVILLE – As The Citadel hit clutch home runs and made spectacular diving catches – and as Joe Jackson mounted his campaign for mayor of Greenville – the Bulldogs’ drive toward a Southern Conference took on the feel of destiny.
That destiny ran smack into Elon pitcher Kyle Webb today on a brilliant afternoon at Fluor Field.
Making his third appearance of the SoCon tournament, Webb muffled the league’s top offense for six innings and boosted third-seeded Elon to a 6-5 victory over The Citadel for the Phoenix’s second SoCon tournament title.
Elon (32-28) earned the SoCon’s automatic bid to the NCAA baseball regionals, a bid the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (35-25) came achingly close to winning themselves.
The Citadel’s defense was clutch in tourney wins over Appalachian State (twice) and Western Carolina, but faltered today. A throwing error and failure to catch pop foul helped Elon grab a 6-1 lead through three innings.
The Bulldogs got back into it at 6-3 in the fifth on a two-run, bloop double by Tyler Griffin. Jackson’s triple into the right-field corner in the seventh scored Hughston Armstrong, and cut the lead to 6-4. Griffin greeted reliever Spencer Medick with a double over the centerfielder’s head to make it 6-5.
The Bulldogs got runners to first and second with two outs in the eighth. But Jackson – 10 of 12 at the plate to that point in the tourney – struck out looking, just the second time he’d been retired the entire tournament.
Jackson hit .769 for the tournament and is the first Most Outstanding Player from a losing team in SoCon tournament history.
Spencer Medick struck out the side in the ninth to set off the Elon celebration.
Jackson, the Greenville native and great-great-great nephew of baseball legend “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, got the Bulldogs off to a good start in the first with a ringing RBI double high off the Green Monster in left. That scored Hughston Armstrong, who had poked a double down the left-field line.
After throwing 117 pitches on Wednesday, Pritcher had a rough start on three days’ rest. Elon got a single, a double and a triple (by SoCon player of the year Ryan Kinsella) to score two runs in the bottom of the first.
Elon added three more runs in the second, the big blow a two-run single by Sebastian Gomez. That came after Citadel third baseman Bailey Rush failed to catch a foul pop for what would have been the third out.
A throwing error in the third helped Elon tack on another run, on Chris Bresnahan’s single off the Green Monster, for a 6-1 lead. Pritcher made it through only 2 2/3 innings, giving up eight hits and six runs, five earned.
Reliever Logan Cribb gave the Bulldogs a chance to get back into the game, working 3 2/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
All-Tournament team: Pitcher Kyle Webb, Elon; Pitcher Justin Hess, Ga. Southern; Relief pitcher Dylan Clark, Elon; C Joe Jackson, The Citadel; 1B Ryan Kinsella, Elon; 2B Hector Cresp, App State; 3B Tyler White, Western Carolina; OF Tyler Griffin, The Citadel; OF Sebastian Gomez, Elon; OF Julian Ridings, Western Carolina; DH Bo Thompson, The Citadel. Most Outstanding Player: Joe Jackson, The Citadel.