The Oglethorpe baseball team went on a roller-coaster ride Saturday at the second round of the SAA Baseball Championship in Birmingham, Alabama. They blew a ninth-inning lead against the hosts, No. 25 Birmingham-Southern, in the afternoon and squandered a chance to vault into the pod finals only needing to win one of two on Sunday to secure a spot in the SAA Championship Series. However, they recovered in Saturday night's elimination game, coming back from a 4-0 deficit against Berry, as well as the disappointment of the afternoon's events, to still book a spot in Sunday's pod finals with a 7-4 win over the Vikings.
The Stormy Petrels will need to beat the homestanding Panthers twice on Sunday to lock up a spot in the best-of-three championship series, while Birmingham-Southern only needs one of the two. The first game of the pod finals is set for 2 p.m. EDT at Striplin Field, with the second to follow approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first, if necessary.
Still reeling from their 4-3 walkoff loss in the afternoon, the Petrels dropped to the loser's bracket and faced an elimination game against a Berry team that they'd beaten 24 hours earlier, but that had swept them in the regular season. Sophomore right-hander Devlin Basinger got the start for the Petrels and pitched well, but he allowed all four of his runs in the fourth inning, dropping the Petrels behind 4-0.
Things looked bleak momentarily, but the Petrels mounted a huge rally in the fifth. Senior center fielder Jacob Gassert led off the frame with a double, then moved to third on a Viking error. Senior right fielder Patrick Burnette followed with a run-scoring single, the first of three consecutive base hits for Oglethorpe. Senior designated hitter Andrew Mink loaded the bases with a single on the next at-bat, then junior first baseman Jack Bartlewski followed with another run-scoring hit to make it 4-2. Sophomore catcher Alec Babb drove in a run on a fielder's choice to the outfield to make it 4-3, then a balk and a wild pitch allowed Oglethorpe to tie the game.
Basinger had new life and allowed just two hits and three total baserunners for the rest of his outing. He nabbed the win, allowing four runs on eight hits over seven innings. He walked just three and struck out seven.
The Petrels went on to get him the lead in the sixth. Gassert walked with one out and stole second, giving junior second baseman Austin Jackson a chance to give his team the lead. He did just that with a double to the opposite field.
In the seventh, a Bartlewski walk, a Babb single, and a sacrifice bunt from freshman left fielder Will Arnold put a couple more runners in scoring position, and freshman third baseman Andrew Noack came through with a two-run single to make it 7-4.
Berry brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth against Bartlewski. After inducing a fielder's choice grounder, he allowed a walk to put the potential tying run on base. He then proceeded to record a strike out to end the game, securing his fourth save of the season. He allowed three hits and a walk over two innings, but didn't allow a run.
The day looked like it would be even better for the Petrels, as they led nationally-ranked Birmingham-Southern 3-2 going to the bottom of the ninth in the afternoon's opening contest. The Panthers loaded the bases with one out, but Petrel right-hander Noah Cole induced a flyout to right field for the second out. Burnette threw to the plate in case the runner tagged and broke from third, but his throw got away from Babb and skittered past Cole, who was backing up on the play. The error allowed the tying run to score and the next batter singled home the winning run, giving Birmingham-Southern a 4-3 victory and immediate passage to the pod finals.
Cole pitched very well and suffered the tough-luck, complete-game loss. He went 8 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs on 10 hits, walking just two and striking out four over 116 pitches.
The Panthers jumped on Oglethorpe 2-0 in the first inning of the game, but the Petrels came back. A Jackson RBI single in the third cut the Panther lead in half, then Oglethorpe turned the tables in the sixth. Bartlewski doubled with one out and Arnold singled him to the plate, tying the game. After senior third baseman Dylan Leonard kept the rally going with an infield single, freshman shortstop Billy Finch doubled just out of reach of the diving Birmingham-Southern left fielder. Arnold came home with the go-ahead run and the Petrels made it stick until the ninth inning.
The home side put runners on first and second with nobody out in the eighth, but Cole induced a bunt popout and a double-play grounder to get out of trouble.