The third-seeded Oglethorpe baseball team found themselves locked in a tight, low-scoring game with the sixth-seeded Centre Colonels Thursday afternoon in the SAA Tournament opener for both teams at Stauffer Field in Memphis, Tennessee. In the end, though, it was the Stormy Petrels who held onto a slim lead through the late innings and came away with a 2-1 win, moving into the winner's bracket of their 4-team tournament pod.
The contest was a pitcher's duel all the way through, and sophomore right-hander Noah Cole got the better of it. He allowed a single run and just three hits over seven outstanding innings of work, walking two and striking out four. He worked around a big jam in the sixth after mowing through the Colonels in the first five frames. Centre loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth and the Petrels up 2-0. Cole issued a bases-loaded walk to make it 2-1, but then induced a fly out to escape the frame with the lead. He eventually earned the win to improve to 4-2 on the season.
In the eighth inning, Cole gave way to freshman right-hander Christopher Keane, who allowed a walk and a single to put runners on the corners with just one out. However, he struck out back-to-back Colonel batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
Oglethorpe missed an opportunity to add some insurance in the bottom half of the inning, meaning sophomore closer Jack Bartlewski had no margin for error in the ninth. He got two quick outs, but a walk and a single put the potential tying run in scoring position for Centre. Bartlewski induced a fly out, however, securing the Petrel victory and his Oglethorpe record-setting ninth save of the season.
Centre pitching held the Oglethorpe lineup to just seven hits, but the Petrels didn't need much with Cole pitching so well. Freshman catcher Alec Babb hit an infield single with one out in the second, advanced to second on a ground out, and scored on a single to right field by senior left fielder Britton Araujo to get the Petrels on the board. They added another in the fourth inning when Babb again initiated a mini-rally. He doubled with one out, then advanced to third on a ground out. With Araujo batting again, Babb scored an unearned run on a passed ball, doubling the Oglethorpe advantage. Those two runs turned out to be all the Petrels would need.
Babb finished the day 3-for-4, while senior right fielder Patrick Burnette went 2-for-4.
"Cole was outstanding today," said Oglethorpe head coach Dan Giordano. "He was able to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate and throw his slider where he wanted. Keane and Bartlewski finished the job, each of them making big pitches when they had to."
The Petrels advance into the winner's bracket of their 4-team pod, and they'll face host and No. 2 seed Rhodes Friday at noon Eastern from Stauffer Field. The winner of that game will continue to advance in the winner's bracket to Saturday's final round, while the loser will have to take on the winner of Friday's first elimination game, between Centre and No. 7 seed Sewanee, in a second elimination game on Friday night.