May 29, 2010

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CBI Live: SoCon Game 11: #7 ASU 3, #6 WCU 2

CBI Live: SoCon Game 13: #6 WCU 7, #7 ASU 6

CBI Live
Bulldogs rally past Phoenix, move into title game

By Phil Stanton Co-Founder


CHARLESTON, S.C. – What a cruel game baseball can be.


Elon freshman pitcher Kyle Webb was one throw away from his first collegiate win. But his potential game-ending throw to first was wide, opening the door for the Bulldogs to tie the game in the ninth and win it in the 10th as top-seeded The Citadel edged fourth-seeded Elon 6-5 on Day 4 of the Southern Conference Tournament in front of 4,053 fans at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, the 10th-largest crowd in tourney history.


The Bulldogs (41-20) advance to Sunday’s championship game against the winner of the Appalachian State-Western Carolina game. The Phoenix fall to 38-22 and must wait to see if its name is called on Monday’s NCAA Tournament selection show.


Webb was brilliant through eight as Elon carried a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Brad Felder drew a leadoff walk and found himself on second with two outs. Justin Mackert singled to right to bring home Felder and make the score 5-3.


Kyle Jordan hit a slow chopper back to the mound that Webb fielded and threw past first baseman Ryan Adams. Instead of the game being over, the Bulldogs had runners on second and third.


“I lost focus a little bit, I guess,” Webb said. “When I fielded it, I bobbled it a little bit, but it really doesn’t matter. I should’ve made the play. It’s inexcusable. When it comes down to it, if you want to win games like this, you’ve got to make the easy plays. That’s not a play I can have excuses for.”


Closer Thomas Girdwood came on to face David Greene, who singled through the left side to drive in Mackert and Jordan with the tying runs.


“Even though we did have two outs,” Greene said, “there’s no doubt we all still believe we’re going to win the game, and that’s what’s so special about this team – we all believe we’re going to do it, and we all pick each other up. It’s just a great team win.”


Webb, whose previous long outing was three innings, pitched 8.2 innings with seven hits, five runs (three earned), one walk and three strikeouts.


Neal Pritchard was hit by a pitch to start the top of the 10th for the Phoenix and was sacrificed to second. But he was stranded there as Drew Mahaffey came in from the pen to induce a pair of flyouts and keep the score tied.


William Ladd had a leadoff single in the bottom of the frame for The Citadel and was sacrificed to second. Felder sent a base hit to center to plate Ladd with the game-winner.


“That’s just a very big break for us,” said Bulldog head coach Fred Jordan. “Then you’ve got to give our guys credit – they took advantage of the two mistakes late in the game by following them up with base hits by David Greene and Brad Felder.”


The Bulldogs dented home first in the bottom of the second. Mackert had a base hit and scored on a single by Grant Richards with two away.


The Phoenix tied it in the fourth as Nike Fraser had a leadoff triple and scored on a base hit by Neal Pritchard.


Felder ripped a one-out homer to right for The Citadel in the sixth for a 2-1 advantage.


Elon put together a two-out rally in the top of the seventh. With two down, Justin Hilt singled and stole second. Harry Austin was hit by a pitch and Fraser had a swinging bunt single to load the bases. Mike Melillo drew a base on balls to tie the game at 2. Adams laced a two-run double down the left field line to give the Phoenix a 4-2 advantage.


Felder had two hits, two runs and two RBI for the Bulldogs. Mackert had two hits and two runs for The Citadel.


Adams drove in three, while Fraser had two hits and three runs for Elon. Alex Swim and Seth Canipe both had two hits for the Phoenix.


“I’m proud of my players,” Elon head coach Mike Kennedy said. “I thought they competed and played hard. We were in a tough position and our kids never quit, they never gave up, and as a result of taking care of each other, I thought we came out here and really competed hard and played hard all week. I’m extremely proud of them. Webb gave us a chance to win.”


This was the fourth extra-inning game in this year’s tournament, a Southern Conference record. The previous mark of three occurred in 1997, 2000 and 2008.


The Citadel will make its 13th appearance in the SoCon Tournament title game in 26 seasons. The Bulldogs are 7-5 in title tilts, with losses in their past two (2006, 2007).


Elon now becomes a huge fan of the Bulldogs in the championship game.


“The Citadel’s got to win,” Kennedy said. “It’s just a fact for our league. We’ve gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to NCAA bids. You guys saw us play, and you saw our league – it’s great baseball. At some point, hopefully they’ll reward us, but The Citadel’s got to win. If they don’t win it, we’re probably done. I don’t think that’s right, but that’s how it is.”


(photos courtesy of Southern Conference Media Relations Office)