The Oglethorpe baseball team scored 15 runs on 16 hits Friday evening in a 15-7 defeat of the third-seeded Berry Vikings in the first round of the SAA Baseball Championship at Striplin Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The sixth-seeded Stormy Petrels jumped on the Vikings early, scoring eight runs over the first two innings, and maintained their lead from there. Berry got to within three runs late in the game, but Oglethorpe pulled away with five more runs in the ninth.
As a result, the Petrels move into the winner's bracket of the four-team, double-elimination pod. They'll take on pod host and tournament No. 2 seed Birmingham-Southern in the first game of the second round at 1 p.m. EDT Saturday. The winner of that game automatically advances to the pod finals on Sunday and puts themselves one win away from advancement to the SAA Championship Series. The loser must survive an elimination game against either Berry or No. 7 seed Sewanee Saturday evening to get to the pod finals, then must beat the winner from Saturday's first game twice on Sunday to advance.
The Petrels got off to a fast start when senior center fielder Jacob Gassert led off the game with a home run. It served as just the opening salvo of an outstanding day for him, as he finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored.
Junior second baseman Austin Jackson then doubled into the right-center gap, advanced to third on a balk, and scored on a wild pitch, doubling Oglethorpe's advantage. He wound up 3-for-5 with two doubles, a walk, four RBIs and three runs scored.
Oglethorpe really poured it on in the second inning, scoring six times to take a commanding lead. Left fielder Will Arnold and shortstop Billy Finch, both freshmen, singled and, with one out, Arnold scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Gassert. Jackson followed with the first of his two doubles, scoring both Finch and Gassert and giving Oglethorpe a 5-0 lead. Seniors Patrick Burnette and Andrew Mink were both hit by pitches over the next two at-bats and then Jackson scored on a wild pitch. With two outs, sophomore catcher Alec Babb and Arnold collected RBI singles to push the Petrels into an eight-run lead.
Meanwhile, freshman right-hander Jonathan Haab pitched very well. He went seven innings and allowed just four earned runs. He scattered 10 hits and walked just two Vikings over the course of his outing. He earned the victory on the day, improving to 3-6 on the season.
Berry scored a run in the third, three in the fifth, and another in the sixth off of Haab, but the Petrels tempered that with two more in the top of the fifth. They loaded the bases with one out, and Jackson followed with a bases-loaded walk. Burnette proceeded to drive in another run with a sacrifice fly.
The Vikings scored a couple runs off sophomore reliever Justin Kacena to pull to within three, 10-7, in the eighth. Junior right-hander Dylan Childress replaced him with one out in the inning and runners at first and second, though, and immediately got a strikeout. The next hitter singled to right field, but Burnette gunned down the lead runner at the plate, getting the Petrels out of the inning. Childress went on to earn his third save for his inning-and-two-thirds of work. He didn't allow a run or a walk and surrendered just two hits.
Berry wouldn't get any closer than they did in the bottom of the eighth. The Petrels rallied for a game-icing five runs in the ninth inning. Junior first baseman Jack Bartlewski drove in a run with a double, while Jackson, Burnette and Mink all collected RBI singles in the frame.