Citadel 13-14, UNCG 12-11
The Citadel and UNCG combined for 50 runs and 62 hits, but in the end it was the Bulldogs who staged a pair of come-from-behind victories to sweep Saturday's doubleheader and the final series of the regular season.
The Bulldogs (23-32, 8-18 SoCon) wiped out a late 12-3 deficit to win the opener 13-12. In the nightcap, the Spartans (21-27, 8-16) built leads of 7-1 and 10-7 before The Citadel rallied for a 14-11 victory.
The pair of exciting wins came on Senior Day, with Class of 2014 members Hughston Armstrong, Logan Cribb, Drew DeKerlegand, Tyler Griffin, Ryan Kilgallen, Calvin Orth and David Rivera honored before the opening game.
Both teams will be in action Tuesday in the play-in round of the Southern Conference Tournament at Riley Park. The Spartans will play in the opening game at noon while the Bulldogs will take the field at 3:30.
The Citadel staged the second biggest comeback in school history in the opener, scoring 10 runs over its final two at-bats to take the first game of the twinbill. The rally was topped only by an 11-run comeback against Clemson on March 3, 1999, when the Bulldogs erased a 15-4 deficit in an 18-15 victory.
With two on and two out in the seventh, Johnathan Stokes doubled in two runs and Ryan Kilgallen followed with an RBI two-base hit to bring The Citadel within 12-6. UNCG pitcher Blair Betts retired the first two batters in the eighth before the floodgates opened.
With a run in already in, Stokes slammed his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to left center that made it a 12-9 game. Spartan closer Tyler Frazier relieved Betts but struggled with his control, walking the first three batters he faced with a passed ball bringing home a run.
Hughston Armstrong then capped the rally when he took a 1-2 pitch from Frazier into center to drive home a pair of runs that put The Citadel in front. Skylar Hunter put the exclamation point on the dramatic win when he retired the Spartans in order in the ninth for the save.
Layton Meacham, who had appeared in only four games prior to Saturday, worked 3.1 innings of two-hit shutout relief to earn his first career victory.
UNCG led 2-1 after an inning before scoring five times in the second including a three-run homer by Zac MacAneney and a two-run single by Tyler Long. It was an 8-3 Spartan lead in the fifth when a three-run blast by Jordan McDonald highlighted a four-run frame that gave the visitors their seemingly insurmountable lead.
The Citadel finished with 16 hits including three by Tyler Griffin. Hunter King and Aaron Wright paced a 15-hit Spartan attack with three knocks each.
The Citadel again enjoyed a huge eighth inning in the nightcap, this time scoring four runs to spell the difference as the Bulldogs completed the sweep. Mason Davis and Bo Thompson singled in runs to put The Citadel in front 12-11, and Griffin followed with a two-run double to produce the final margin.
Hunter again came in to work the ninth and picked up his third save of the series. The sophomore closer now has 14 saves on the year, one shy of the record set by Link Saunders in 2006, and his 27 career saves put him in sole possession of second place in The Citadel record book, two behind Hank Kraft.
The Spartans had taken an 11-10 lead in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Wright but could not hang on. UNCG had four home runs in the game, including the first of the career of Jake Kusz and Dillon Stewart, but Spartan pitching again allowed 16 hits and walked 11 batters.
Kusz homered in the second as both teams scored in the inning. UNCG then erupted for six runs in the top of the third, with Sean Guite hitting a solo homer, Wright contributing a two-run shot and Stewart doubling in a pair of runs.
But the Bulldogs bounced right back with six in their half of the frame. Thompson started it off with a solo homer, his eighth of the season, and Armstrong capped the uprising with a two-run double to tie the game at 7.
Thompson had four hits in the game, one shy of his career high, and his 25th career homer moved him into a tie for ninth in school history with Garrick Haltiwanger.
UNCG rebuilt its margin with single runs in each of the next three innings, with Stewart homering in the fifth and Wright driving in a run with a single in the sixth. A sacrifice fly by Stokes in the sixth and bases loaded walks to Drew DeKerlegand and Stokes in the seventh tied it at 10.
Stokes drove in seven runs in the doubleheader while Davis and three hits and scored three times in the second game. Wright had three hits and five RBIs in the nightcap for the Spartans.