Citadel baseball coach Fred Jordan emerged clutching his left shoulder after a wild ninth-inning brawl between his Bulldogs and Elon players Thursday night at Riley Park.
"I don't know how I hurt it," Jordan said after his team survived in a 6-3, 10-inning victory over No. 4 Elon in the Southern Conference baseball tournament. "But that's the least of our worries."
The top-seeded Bulldogs (40-20) will have today off, with a chance to decompress and get ready for a 1 p.m. Saturday game against the winner of today's elimination game between Elon and Samford.
Late Thursday night, SoCon officials were reviewing videotape of a melee touched off by a collision at the plate in the ninth inning, a full-blown fight that left the crowd of 3,093 buzzing.
With the score tied at 2, Citadel first baseman Justin Mackert raced home after a single to left by Grant Richards. As the ball bounced away from Elon catcher Mike Melillo, Mackert hit the plate in a sort of half-slide, his knees and shoulder slamming into Melillo as the catcher scrambled to pick up the ball.
Home plate umpire Darrell Arnold ruled Mackert safe for a 3-2 Citadel lead. College rules require that runners slide into home on a close play, and Elon coach Mike Kennedy sprinted from the dugout to protest the play.
Meanwhile, Melillo jawed with several Citadel players before Elon third baseman Scott Riddle, an All-SoCon quarterback for the Phoenix football team, charged into the scrum and set off fighting that spread over the area behind home plate. It took coaches from both sides and Charleston police more than a few moments to restore order.
Mackert and Riddle were ejected, but Mackert's ejection was later rescinded by league officials. He can play in the next game, but Riddle cannot play in Elon's next game.
"Nobody wants that to happen," said Jordan, who apparently suffered a separated left shoulder. "But that was two very good teams going nose to nose. I don't know who, when, where and what, but I know the play (at the plate) was baseball.
"They are going to review the tapes, and I just hope the league and the umpires do not overreact on either club. It was bad that it happened, but we just need to move on."
Elon's Kennedy would not comment on the play at the plate, but did talk about the fight.
"It's a black eye for our university and probably for our league," Kennedy said. "It's two great teams playing extremely hard with a lot on the line, both playing for postseason play. It's unfortunate that it took place.
"I was very angry at (Elon players). We preach to them discipline and keeping your composure, and we didn't. Neither club did.
"It was hard. Your assistants are trying to pull people off, and every time you get somebody off, something else happens. It doesn't matter how important the game is, you've got to keep your composure."
The brawl overshadowed fine pitching performances from The Citadel starter Matt Talley and Elon's Ken Ferrer. Talley worked 8 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on eight hits, including a Riddle home run in the fourth that gave Elon a 2-1 lead.
Ferrer struggled in the early going, throwing 78 pitches through three innings.
But he gave up only one run, in the first, and stranded seven runners in the first three frames as The Citadel left 16 men on base for the game.
Down 2-1, the Bulldogs scored twice in the ninth. Matt Simonelli walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Mackert's single to right to tie it at 2.
Mackert stole second and scored on Richards' single to left to make it 3-2 and touch off the brawl.
When the dust settled, Elon tied it at 3-3 on a walk, a sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch and Ben Scott's infield single.
But the Phoenix fell apart in the 10th, with two walks and two errors helping the Bulldogs score three times for a 6-3 lead. Elon finished the game with six errors, three by shortstop Neal Pritchard.