DEMOREST, Ga – It took over 24 hours and 12 innings, but No. 4 seed Bridgewater College finally took down No. 3 seed Birmingham Southern 1-0 in the NCAA Division III South Regional baseball tournament Thursday when Justin Petock scampered home from second on an error.
The game had been suspended in the top of the fourth Wednesday night, and did not resume until Thursday evening. The Eagles, who tied a school record with 34 wins, will face second-seeded Emory (30-10) today, while Birmingham Southern faces elimination against top seed Shenandoah.
On Thursday, the winning run scored on a grounder between first and second by Brendan Howell with no one out and Petock on second. With the first baseman ranging near second, the second baseman threw to the pitcher, who was racing to the bag. The pitcher, David Bourbonnais, couldn’t get a handle on it, sending Petock racing in and sliding home for the game’s only run.
Bridgewater (34-12) and Birmingham Southern (35-11) expected runs would come at a premium. The Eagles sent Corey Armentrout (6-3, 2.97 ERA) to the hill, while Birmingham Southern responded with Blake Stevens (8-2, 1.06 ERA).
“I figured extra innings, I honestly did,” said BC coach Curt Kendall. “We anticipated a pitcher’s duel and hats off to them; a well-pitched game by both teams. It was a matter of who would get the hit, who wouldn’t make a play and who was going to take advantage of it.”
Birmingham Southern forced Armentrout’s hand early. The Eagles’ defense erased the potential go-ahead run when Matt Brown was tagged out in a rundown between third and home by Armentrout.
The Eagles had a runner on second with one out in the fourth when the game was suspended, effectively closing the books on the ace pitchers.
“It was frustrating,” said Armentrout, who allowed three hits in three innings. “I was throwing well, and I felt like I had good velocity and could make the pitches to get those guys out. At the same time, I knew I could turn it over to [Nick] Corbin and he’d get the job done.”
Kendall added, “Is it frustrating? Yeah, but one thing I told our guys is we’re not going to complain about things that are out of our control. [Armentrout] will be fine when we go to him again.”
Bridgewater’s Corbin (7-1, 3.01 ERA) took the mound in the bottom of the fourth, working out of a bases loaded, one-out situation in the fifth. A well-timed visit to the mound from Kendall seemingly settled down Corbin, who induced a grounder to Petock at third, who threw home for the force.
“Manage the situation, that’s all [Kendall] ever says,” said Corbin of the mound visit. “I feel I managed it and my defense managed it. Without them and the plays they made today, a run would have scored.”
Bridgewater nearly saw the game end in the ninth twice, but Brown, who made a wide turn at third on a single to left, was out in another rundown when Corbin cut off the relay throw. Darren Yoder then made a spectacular diving catch on a ball that nearly brought in the winning run, sending the game to extras. Dramatics carried into the 10th when Zach Hynes was thrown out at the plate for the third out on Yoder’s single to left.
Kendall insisted on sending his runner.
“No doubt on that hit we were going to run [Hynes],” he said, “because we knew we weren’t going to have many opportunities.”
Fortunately for the Eagles, their last opportunity led to the winning run after Petock walked and stole second to set up the at-bat by Howell. Corbin was pulled for Robert Gallett in the bottom half after issuing a one-out single. Gallett slammed the door for his fourth save.
“I wanted to stay in there, of course,” said Corbin. “But from a coaching standpoint, it made sense. I had just given up a hit and it was time, and Gallett came in and shut it down.”
Birmingham Southern’s Miles Nordgren pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings on Thursday, allowing just four hits.
Corbin went 8 1/3 scoreless innings for his eighth win, fanning seven hitters. Sanderson and Hynes led the Eagles with two hits each, while Brown and Evan Grovenstein paced Birmingham Southern with three hits apiece.
Bridgewater 000 000 000 001 — 1 7 0
Birmingham-So. 000 000 000 000 — 0 12 2
Armentrout, Corbin (4), Gallet (12) and Hoffman; Stevens, Nordgren (4), Bourbonnais (12) and Mayfield. W—Corbin (8-1). L—Bourbonnais (5-1). Sv—Gallet (4).