It had already been a good weekend for Citadel baseball, what with a complete-game victory from Austin Pritcher on Friday and an eighth-inning game-winner by Grant Richards on Saturday.
But what happened in the final 20 minutes of Sunday’s game made it a weekend the Bulldogs won’t soon forget. And, who knows, it might even get them into the Southern Conference tournament.
Behind by five runs and down to their last out, The Citadel scored six runs in the ninth inning for an 8-7 victory over UNC Greensboro at Riley Park. The winning run scored on a fly-ball single by freshman Jonathan Stokes over a drawn-in outfield, securing a three-game sweep for the Bulldogs, their first in SoCon play in more than a year.
“It’s very difficult to sweep a series in college baseball in this day and time,” said coach Fred Jordan. “And to pull it off the way we did, it’s very special for this young ball club.”
The Citadel (16-21, 7-8) climbed into seventh place in the SoCon in what’s shaping up as a mad scramble to make the eight-team league tournament.
“That was a huge win for us,” said senior left-fielder Justin Mackert. “We didn’t give up with two outs, and that’s great for us because we’ve been struggling with close games. Our goal is to make the tournament, so this is a huge team win for us, and that’s what we needed.”
The Bulldogs have five SoCon series left, including two at contenders College of Charleston (14-7) and Elon (12-6) and two at home against tournament hopefuls Georgia Southern (10-8) and Furman (7-11). The fifth series is at Davidson, which swept Wofford this weekend to improve to 6-12 in the league.
“We’re going to have to grind out every inning,” Jordan said. “We’re not going to ooh and aah you, but we just want to play the seventh, eighth and ninth innings with a chance. That’s our goal.”
That formula has worked the last three Sundays, with comeback wins over Wofford, Samford and UNC Greensboro (18-16, 4-11), which began the weekend tied with the Bulldogs for eighth place.
The Spartans aided The Citadel’s rally with three walks and and two errors in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Ryne Hardwick doubled with two out, and Nick Orvin followed with a single and Mason Davis with a double to spark the comeback. A walk, an error, two more walks and another error tied the score before Stokes, a rookie batting .154, smacked a fly ball over the head of Zach Leach, playing a shallow left field. Pinch-runner Hayden Hendry raced home with the winning run as the Bulldogs swarmed Stokes out near second base.
Orvin had three hits and the Bulldogs overcame four errors. Their sixth pitcher, Bryce Hines (1-3), got the win with an inning of scoreless relief.
The Citadel is at Winthrop on Tuesday before next weekend’s series at College of Charleston.