After surviving a back-and-forth battle with regular-season champion Western Carolina tonight, The Citadel is just two wins away from its ninth Southern Conference tournament championship.
Tyler Griffin slugged a three-run home run in the sixth inning to put the Bulldogs ahead, and The Citadel held on for a 12-11 victory at Fluor Field in Greenville.
With the victory, the 34-24 Bulldogs earn a day off on Friday, and won’t play again until 10 a.m. Saturday.
If The Citadel wins that game, it will play Sunday for its ninth SoCon tournament title – and an automatic berth in the NCAA baseball regionals, its first since 2010.
WCU (39-19), which had won 17 of its last 18 against league goes, falls to the losers’ bracket. The Catamounts will plays an elimination game at 3 p.m. Friday against No. 5 seed Appalachian State, a 2-1 winner over No. 8 Samford today.
The Citadel built an 8-3 lead through five, blew all of it and more, and then rallied again with four runs in the sixth for a 12-9 lead.
The Citadel scored three times in the fourth, on singles by Joe Jackson, Bo Thompson, Calvin Orth and Johnathan Stokes, for a 3-1 lead.
Western Carolina answered with two runs in the top of the fifth to tie the score, but the Bulldogs seemed to blow it open with five in the bottom of the inning.
Hughston Armstrong doubled down the right-field line and scored on an error by WCU first baseman Jacob Hoyle. Griffin’s single through the right side scored Jackson, and Stokes came through with a two-out, three-run double to left-center for an 8-3 lead.
But WCU, leading the nation with 70 home runs, came right back with five runs in the sixth, including a grand slam from Tyler White – off of Citadel reliever James Reeves, the projected third-game starter – for a 9-8 lead.
Jackson tied it at 9-9 in the sixth with an RBI double, and Griffin’s three-run homer – his 12th of the season – made it 12-9.
WCU slashed the lead to 12-11 in the eighth on a two-run homer by Hoyle, his second of the game. Citadel shortstop Stokes made a diving stop behind second base and flipped to second baseman Mason Davis, who made a barehanded catch and turned the double play to escape the inning with the lead intact.
Relievers Ross White and Skylar Hunter retired the Catamounts in order in the ninth.