Another Citadel-Elon game ended Saturday with another Bulldogs baseball player on the painful end of a pummeling.
This time, Citadel designated hitter Brad Felder was more than happy to accept the blows from a throng of happy teammates after his sharp single to center field in the 10th inning brought home the winning run in the Bulldogs' 6-5 win over Elon in front of 4,033 fans at Riley Park.
The Citadel (41-20), one 40-foot throw from defeat in the ninth inning, will play today for its eighth Southern Conference tournament title and first since 2004.
The Bulldogs face No. 6 Western Carolina at 2 p.m. today.
"A lot of things have happened this season," said Felder, a sophomore from Orangeburg who also hit a solo home run in the sixth inning. "We've had a bunch of wins in the late innings. Our coach tells us not to give up, because there is no clock in baseball."
Still, the clock seemed to have run out on the Bulldogs in Saturday's game when Elon pitcher Kyle Webb fielded a comebacker from The Citadel's Kyle Jordan with two outs and a 5-3 lead in the ninth.
An easy throw to first, and the two clubs would have had to play again Saturday night for the right to advance to today's title game.
But Webb, a freshman making his first college start, juggled the ball and then rushed his throw to first base, sailing it far over teammate Ryan Adams' head and giving The Citadel new life with runners at second and third and sophomore David Greene at the plate.
"Even though there were two outs, none of us had a doubt we were going to win the game," Greene said. "That's what's so special about this team. We all believe we are gonna do it, and we all pick each other up."
Facing SoCon career saves leader Thomas Girdwood, Greene pulled an 0-1 slider, on the outside corner but a little high, through the hole between third base and shortstop, scoring two runs to tie it at 5 and ruining an unexpected masterpiece from Webb.
The 6-0, 173-pound right-hander, brother of former Davidson standout Matt Webb, had never pitched more than three innings in a college game. He went 8 2/3 innings against The Citadel, giving up three earned runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out three before that ill-fated throw.
"It's a cruel game," said Elon coach Mike Kennedy. "He'll be remembered for the throw he didn't make, and not for the nine innings he gave us a chance to win."
Said Webb, "I lost focus a little bit, I guess. I bobbled it a little, but it really doesn't matter. If you want to win big games like this, you have to make the easy plays. That's not a play I can have excuses for; that one was on me."
In the 10th inning, The Citadel's William Ladd reached on an infield single, moved up on Nick Orvin's sacrifice bunt and scored the game-winner when Felder punched a 1-2 pitch from reliever Mitch Conner into center.
Elon (38-22) will now go from fighting the Bulldogs -- each team had two players suspended after a brawl in The Citadel's 6-3, 10-inning win on Thursday -- to pulling for The Citadel today.
Elon's hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA regionals hinge on a Bulldogs victory today, as The Citadel and College of Charleston are all but assured of berths in the 64-team field and a fourth bid for the SoCon is highly unlikely.
"The Citadel's got to win," Kennedy said. "If they don't win it, I think we're done."
Citadel freshman Michael Clevinger allowed just one run in his 5 2/3 innings before Elon scored three runs with two outs in the seventh against reliever Raymond Copenhaver, the key blow a two-run double by Adams for a 4-2 lead.
Elon's lead reached 5-2 in the ninth on a hit batter, a single and a sacrifice fly. A walk and a two-out RBI single by Justin Mackert made it 5-3 and started the Bulldogs' comeback in the bottom of the ninth.
"We're not great," said Citadel coach Fred Jordan. "We're just pretty good. But we've got a chance to do something great (today)."