What an impressive tournament run by Jacksonville. After suffering an opening round loss to Belmont, the Dolphins survived three days in the loser's bracket winning four straight games, including back-to-back wins against the Bruins today.
Belmont is down to its last three outs, trailing 7-6 with the A-Sun Tournament title and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth on the line. Good news for the Bruins is the meat of their order will come to the plate.
Ben Petsch grounds out to shortstop.
Derek Wiley grounds out to shortstop.
Kane Simmons swings for strike three, but the catcher drops the ball. Simmons is thrown out at first. Jacksonville commences to dog piling on infield grass.
The Dolphins are your A-Sun Tournament Champs, and in all likelihood will play at a Tallahassee Regional hosted by No. 2 Florida State.
Belmont reliever Chris Manning, who took the mound in the previous inning, walked Jacksonville's Kevin Ferreira to lead off the top of the eighth. With two outs, Chuck Opachich laced a single into right to plate Ferreira and give the Dolphins a 7-6 lead.
That just secured Opachich a spot on my all-tournament team ballot.
As I struggle to fill out my all-tournament team ballot, there's little question who will take MVP honors. It's really a two-man race between Belmont's Kane Simmons and Jacksonville's Pete Clifford, and it's going down to the wire.
Simmons gave Belmont a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third with a two-out solo homer to right field. It was the 14th homer of the season and second of the tournament for Simmons, who came into the day batting .500 in the tournament with a tournament-best six RBI.
Clifford, the A-Sun Player of the Year, responded in the top of the fifth with a two-run shot to right, his second of the day, third of the tournament and league-best 15th of the season. He came into the day batting .385.
Daniel Wagner had a one-out single to right, and Carlos Testa plated him with another single to right. Testa went on to score on a throwing error to give Belmont a 3-1 lead.
Jacksonville responded in the top of the third, taking advantage of some Bruins miscues. Ryan McArdle reached on a throwing error by Belmont third baseman Matt Reynolds. Belmont pitcher Ben Meador then walked Brad Simmons, and Thomas LePage singled to plate both runners.
Heading into the bottom of the third, score's tied at 3.
Jacksonville scored four more in the eighth, which was more than enough to outlast a Belmont two-run rally, and the Dolphins forced an A-Sun championship rematch with a 10-4 win against the Bruins. That game will begin at 4:32 p.m.
Lead-off man Chuck Opachich started the Dolphins eighth with a single. After a sac bunt and an intentional walk of Pete Clifford, Ryan McArdle plated Opachich with a single. Thomas LePage and Donnie Vickers then did the same, capping a string of three straight RBI singles for Jacksonville.
Belmont's Matt Reynolds singled to lead off the top of the ninth with an infield single. Wilson Tucker hit a one-out single, and Derek Wiley plated both runners with a two-out double, his second double of the game.
The loss was for the first for Belmont ace Charles Lee (6-1) in conference this season.
Jacksonville added three more runs in the bottom of the seventh and would force winner-take-all championship game if it holds onto this 6-2 lead. That game would start 30 minutes after the completion of this one.
That said, if there's an offense at this tournament that can make up for this, it's Belmont's.
Jacksonville's Pete Clifford drew a walk and Ryan McArdle singled to put runners on first and second with one out and chase Belmont starter Charles Lee out of the game.
Facing Bruins reliever Jimmy Stanley, Thomas LePage singled to load the bases with one out. Clifford then scored on a wild pitch, Ferreira drove in McArdle and Matt Lopez plated LePage with a single.
With two outs in the top of the sixth and Bradi Manifold on first, Matt Reynolds drilled a shot to the warning track in left field. With Manifold nearly at third, the ball got caught up in the tarp covering the outfield fence.
Reynolds was awarded second on a ground-rule double, and Manifold, who had crossed the plate for what would have been the game-tying run, had to return to third.
Packy Elkins then lined out to shortstop to end the inning. Jacksonville leads 3-2 going into the seventh.
Belmont starter Charles Lee broke a cardinal rule of pitching in the fifth inning: You can't walk the lead-off batter. Lee gave a pass to Jacksonville's Pete Clifford to start the bottom of the fifth. Three batters later, he paid for it, as the Dolphins took a 3-2 lead.
Ryan McArdle doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. With one out, Donnie Vickers then flew out to right to plate Clifford.
Helping his case for tournament MVP, Kane Simmons put Belmont on the board in the top of the fourth with an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Brian Petsch from third. Derek Wiley, reached on a double, moved to third on the play and scored as No. 9 hitter Carlo Testa legged out a two-out infield single to shortstop.
Jacksonville jumped to a 2-0 lead off a two-run homer by A-Sun Player of the Year Pete Clifford. The line-drive shot, Clifford's conference-best 13th of the season, hugged the right field line, but was ruled fair, which drew conversation from Belmont coach Dale Jarvis.
Jacksonville will try today in the A-Sun Tournament title game. Belmont's offensive seems unstoppable in the tournament with a team batting average of .355 and 34 runs scored. That's more than double Jacksonville's 15 runs scored.
Belmont already defeated Jacksonville 12-7 in the first round and would have to lose two to the Dolphins today in order not to win the A-Sun title.
Ace pitcher Charles Lee (8-1, 3.62 ERA) will pitch for Belmont, which was an interesting decision by Coach Dale Jarvis, considering he has two games to work with today.
Matt Gardner (6-5, 3.78 ERA) is on the mound for Jacksonville.
If the opening round match-up between these teams is any indication, this one could get crazy. Belmont led that game 4-2 before Jacksonville took the lead with a five-run eighth. The Bruins responded with an eight-run eighth for the win.
Here are some comments from Belmont Coach Dave Jarvis after the Bruins defeated top-seeded Stetson 18-5 to advance to the A-Sun Tournament championship game:
ON WHERE THIS WIN RANKS IN THE COURSE OF THE SEASON:
"We haven't done this to a quality team such as Stetson. To be quite honest -- and I would call it perfect timing -- this is our best performance against a team of this caliber. It was our best performance, and it couldn't have come at a better time."
ON WHETHER BELMONT NEEDED TO WIN THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT IN ORDER TO GET AN NCAA TOURNAMENT BERTH:
"In my mind, no doubt. With our record and some of the midweek loses we've suffered this year, I felt like we had to win the [A-Sun] Tournament. I feel like Stetson deserves to get an at-large bid. A committee will decide that, but there's no reason why they shouldn't."
After Stetson's tease of a fourth inning, Belmont continued to steamroll the Hatters, adding five runs in the final three innings to take an 18-5 win.
The Bruins (34-24) will now play Jacksonville at 1 p.m. Saturday for the A-Sun championship. Jacksonville (32-26), a team Belmont beat in the tournament's first round, would have to defeat Belmont in a second game scheduled for 4 p.m. in order to take the conference crown, and the automatic NCAA Tournament that comes with it.
As for Stetson (41-19), its one-time promising hopes to host an NCAA Regional are likely dashed. They should still get an at-large NCAA berth, considering its 40-win record, No. 30 RPI ranking and its out-of-conference wins against LSU, Notre Dame and Florida.
After the rain delay, Belmont's Carlo Testa plated Daniel Wagner on an RBI single to give the Bruins a 13-5 lead. And after giving up a pair of two-out walks, Belmont reliever Josh Moffitt stuck out Brian Pruitt looking to end the Stetson fifth. I can't figure out if the Hatters want to make this a ball game or not.
Sometimes, I feel like Belmont does this on purpose. Just after Stetson rallied with a five-run fourth, the Bruins countered with two runs on three hits in the bottom of the inning. Right now, there's a rain delay with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Belmont leads 12-5. This one has the potential to make the Bruins score fest against Jacksonville look like, well, a baseball game. I mean, just check out this line.
Stetson 5 6 3
Belmont 12 9 0
Rain's letting up now. Play should resume here shortly.
Forget it. Stetson just cut its deficit in half with a five-run fourth. Belmont now leads 10-5.
Stetson's Justin Bass and Adam Tindle started with consecutive singles Jeremy Cruz then put the Hatters on the board with a double to deep center that plated Bass. Myron Carlton had a one-out single to load the bases, and pinch hitting for Kevin Johnson, Brian Pruitt drove in two more with double to the center field fence before going on to score himself.
In the first inning, Stetson gave Belmont four runs. In the second, the Bruins took five more from the Hatters. Belmont had three hits, including a three-run homer from Kane Simmons, to take a 9-0 lead in the second.
Carlo Testa drew a lead-off walk, Matt Reynolds singled and Wilson Tucker walked to load the bases with one out. Ben Petsch then hit a two-run single, and two batters later, Kane cleared the bases with a two-out shot just inside the right field foul pole.
That was easily the ugliest inning of baseball yet at this season's A-Sun Tournament. Stetson committed three errors and Hatters starter Justin Dechert walked two of the first three batters and had two wild pitches, as Belmont took a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Belmont's Matt Reynolds drew a lead-off walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Wilson Tucker then walked to put runners on first and second. Then in one of the odder plays of the tournament, Ben Petsch struck out put took off toward first base, which was occupied. Even though Petsch was out despite the dropped third strike, Stetson catcher Mark Rood threw down to first and the ball bounced off Petsch and into the infield, allowing Reynolds to score.
Tucker, Derek Wiley and Kane Simmons (RBI single) all scored in the inning.
Gardner-Webb could do nothing right offensively. Trailing by three, the Bulldogs had a promising start in the bottom of the eighth, drawing a lead-off walk at the top of the batting order. A rally even seemed possible as Jay McConnell ripped what looked like a line drive to the gap in right-center. A stiff breeze seemed to catch the ball and guide it into the glove of charging right fielder Mike McCallister. No. 3 hitter Daniel Cooke then ripped a hit-and-run line drive at shortstop Matt Lopez, who flipped the ball to first base to double up the cheating base runner.
That was Gardner-Webb's day in a nutshell. Even when the Bulldogs tried to be aggressive, they failed. Jacksonville on the other hand added another run in the ninth to claim a 4-0 win against Gardner-Webb. With the loss, the Bulldogs were eliminated from the A-Sun Tournament.
Jacksonville's Carson Andrew went seven-plus innings for the win, combing with reliever Tim Brown for a three-hit shutout.
With the win, Jacksonville will face third-seeded Belmont at 1 p.m. Saturday, regardless of what happens in the Belmont-Stetson game tonight at 7. If Belmont wins tonight, however, the Jacksonville-Belmont game will for the A-Sun championship.
Here's a stat that certain to make any Gardner-Webb fan puke. After stranding runners on second and third in the bottom of the fourth, the Bulldogs are now batting .172 with runners in scoring position during the A-Sun tournament. Jacksonville still leads 3-0.
Gardner-Webb's Jeremiah Lokken drew a one-out walk in the fourth and stole second base. Matt Rizzuto then walked, and Justin Loyd reached on a fielder's choice that put Rizzuto out at second. Loyd stole second to put runners at second and third with two outs, But Job Ahearn grounded out to third to end the inning.
Right now, the Bulldogs offense is the definition of futility.
Fire up the bus, boys. It's only the bottom of the fourth inning, but this Gardner-Webb team looks like it's ready to go home. Jacksonville scored two in the third and another in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, look disinterested.
Kevin Ferreira started things for the Dolphins, singling off Bulldogs starter Josh Drewery in the third. Logan James then singled to right-center, and Chuck Opachich drove in Ferreira with a single to shallow right. Pete Clifford drew a one-out walk to load the bases, and James then scored on a wild pitch.
In the fourth, Ferreira singled up the middle with two outs and advanced to third after a walk and an Opachich single loaded the bases. Then, with two strikes on Mike McCallister, Ferreira scored on a wild pitch. McCallister struck out on the next pitch.
Here are some quotes from Stetson coach Pete Dunn after his team's 2-1, 11-inning win against Mercer. The top-seeded Hatters will try to remain alive in the A-Sun tournament when they face third-seeded Belmont at 7 p.m.
That play at the plate must have made Stetson hopping, seething, Naomi-Campbell-with-a-cell-phone mad.
After throwing out Mercer's potential go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the inning, Shane Jordan led off the bottom of the 11th with a double to the right field fence. A sac bunt and two intentional walks later, Jordan scored on an Adam Tindle sacrifice fly to foul territory in shallow right field, narrowly beating the throw with a headfirst slide.
With that, top-seeded Stetson took a 2-1 win against second-seeded Mercer, which was eliminated from the A-Sun Tournament with the loss.
It was a questionable decision by Mercer right-handed right fielder John Dortch to catch the foul pop fly to say the least. It would have taken a perfect throw across his body, while running into the fence, to catch Jordan, Stetson's fastest base runner.
Up next, fourth-seeded Jacksonville will face fifth-seeded Gardner-Webb in an elimination game. First pitch is set for 3:10 p.m.
If anything is going to wake up Stetson and the Hatters home crowd, it has to be the play at the plate that ended the top of the 11th.
With bases loaded and one out, Mercer's Mike Armstrong flied out to shallow center field, and pinch runner Richard Bentley tagged and tried to score from third. A strike from Stetson center fielder Shane Jordan to catcher Mark Rood had Bentley pegged just in front of the plate. So Bentley dropped his shoulder and barreled through Rood, who hit the dirt but held onto the ball to complete the inning-ending double play.
Rood jumped to his feet and spiked the ball into the clay while screaming toward the Mercer dugout. Both benches cleared, but players were corralled by coaches and ushered back to their dugouts. Bentley was ejected from the game for delivering the blow.
Still tied at 1 going into the bottom of the 11th. Let's see if this lights a fire under Stetson.
Stetson went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, so we're heading into the 10th with the score tied at 1. Stetson starter Jake Hitchcock is coming out to the mound to start the inning with a pitch count just under 100. Let's see how long he lasts.
Mercer got something going in the top of the seventh. Billy Shaughnessy was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Shaughnessy tried to steal third, as the following batter, Steven Karwatt faced a 2-2 count. But Stetson starter Jake Hitchcock struck out Karwatt with a fast ball, and Hatters catcher Josh Clendenin fired a strike to third get Shaughnessy and complete the inning-ending double play.
Still tied at 1 heading into the top of the eighth.
At least I would if I were him. With one out and the score tied at 1 in the top of the sixth, Thompson, Mercer's No. 3 batter, hammered what surely looked like a home run to left field. But with the flags in left pointing straight in, the ball died at the warning track and Stetson left fielder Justin Bass made a leaping grab to rob Thompson of at least a double.
What's worse for the Bears is Stetson starter Jake Hitchcock got clean-up hitter Mike Armstrong to ground out on the next pitch, capping a three-pitch inning against Mercer's Nos. 2, 3 and 4 batters.
Under overcast skies in DeLand, Fla., Stetson and Mercer are tied at 0 in the bottom of the second. But by mid-afternoon -- weather permitting -- one of the top two seeds will be finished in the A-Sun Tournament.
Second-seeded Mercer (34-25) likely needs this game more than top-seeded Stetson (41-19), as the Hatters are virtually a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid, while the Bears would likely need to win the conference tournament in order to secure a guaranteed berth.
No. 3 pitcher Jake Hitchcock (5-1, 3.90 ERA) got the start for Stetson, and Boone Webster (7-5, 4.30 ERA) took the mound for Mercer.
The Bruins are a bear of a team. OK, I'm sorry. But really, they are resilient. Just as they did in the seventh, the third-seeded Bruins responded to Mercer's ninth-inning rally with a run in the 10th to claim a 4-3 win against the second-seeded Bears.
Ben Petsch started things with a one-out walk and stole second to move into scoring position. Derek Wiley then plated Petsch with a double for what would be the game-winning run.
A rain delay, a blackout, a home run and now extra innings. Down to its final out, Mercer strung together three hits to tie the score at 3.
Pinch hitter Andrew Einert came to the plate for Steven Karwatt and started the rally with a two-strike double. John Dortch kept it going with a single to put runners on first and third, and pinch hitting for Michael Langley, John Daugherty singled in the game-tying run.
What's next? A snow storm? Alien attack? Stay tuned...
Literally. Belmont took a 3-2 lead off a towering three-run shot by Wilson Tucker in the top of the seventh. Two outs later, the lights flickered at Melching Field and half never came back on. The game was delayed as the lights were recycled.
Brandon McCall drew a walk to lead off the seventh. Matt Reynolds then reached on a fielder's choice that put McCall out at second, and Packy Elkins singled before Wilson's ninth homer of the season. Now, that's the Bruins offense we all know.
Nobody really expected this kind of game, considering the offensive outburst Belmont had yesterday. The Bears and Bruins had combined for four hits in a scoreless game heading into the sixth. That changed, as Mercer scored two runs on three hits in the inning.
Lead-off man Matt Crawford hit a one out-double to deep center and Eric Renfroe followed with a single, putting runners on first and third with one out. Josh Thompson then drove in Crawford with a sacrifice fly to deep center, and clean-up batter Mike Armstrong nailed a double off the left field fence to plate Renfroe for a 3-0 Mercer lead.
The Belmont bats also showed signs of life in the sixth. The Bruins used a walk and consecutive singles from Kane Simmons and Daniel Wagner to load the bases with two outs. But Mercer starter Blake Quarles struck out Brady Manifold to end the threat.
The rain has ceased, tarps are up, Belmont has retaken the field and fans are beginning to venture back into the stands. And here comes the first pitch from Bruins pitcher Carlo Testa to the Bears' Mike Armstrong. Strike one...
As is the natural progression of things, rainbows have given away to rain here at Melching Field. Tarps are on the field and Belmont and Mercer are huddled in their respective dugouts with the score tied at 0, one out into the bottom of the fourth.
The good news is that the rain's pretty light, the sky looks to be clearing and the local radar shows that just the northern tip of the storm is brushing DeLand. My guess is that we'll be playing within the half hour.
Main Entry: ur-sine
Etymology: Latin ursinus, from ursus bear -- more at ARCTIC
1 : of or relating to a bear or the bear family (Ursidae)
2 : suggesting or characteristic of a bear
Of course the word can be applied to tonight's game between the Mercer Bears and Belmont Bruins. The score is still tied at 0 in the bottom of the third.
Belmont had a scoring opportunity in the top of the second but stranded runners at first and second. Kane Simmons was hit by a pitch with one out. Daniel Wagner then reached on a fielder's choice that put Simmons out at second. He advanced to third as Brady Manifold singled to left, but a Brandon McCall fly out to rightfield ended the inning.
How appropriate is it that a rainbow began to form just behind the Jacksonville dugout just as the Dolphins wrapped up a 4-1 win against top-seeded Stetson? By the time the teams finished congratulating each other, the end of the rainbow appeared just beyond the Hatters' dugout. Stetson's pot of gold: it could have to win double headers Friday and Saturday in order to win the A-Sun tournament.
Stetson loaded the bases again in the sixth. This time, the Hatters scored to cut Jacksonville's lead to 3-1, but they could have had more.
Casey Frawley singled to lead off the Stetson sixth, and a walk of Braedyn Pruitt and a Justin Bass single loaded the bases with one out. A sacrifice fly to deep right field scored Frawley, but neither Pruitt nor Bass tagged up and instead took off on contact.
Both base runners scurried back to their respective bases in time, but Bass was called out after Jacksonville tagged second because he overran the base and didn't touch it during his retreat to first. Inning over.
With bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Stetson coach Pete Dunn elected to pinch hit Erich Holland for starting shortstop Kevin Johnson. Holland then grounded into an inning-ending double play, and to say that some in the press box disagreed with the decision would be a bit of an understatement.
A-Sun Player of the Year Pete Clifford knocked a solo shot to right field of a fastball from Stetson's Chris Ingoglia to give Jacksonville a 2-0 lead in the third.
The homer, Clifford's league-second-best 12th of the season, finally landed in the second row of the parking lot across the street from Melching Field. Initial inspection suggests no private property was damaged.
Facing elimination, Jacksonville capitalized on early mistakes from Jacksonville No. 2 pitcher Chris Ingoglia to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Ingoglia hit leadoff batter Chuck Opachich, who was picked off at first, and walked No. 2 batter Mike McAllister to start the game. A-Sun Player of the Year Pete Clifford then moved the runner into scoring position with a single before clean-up hitter singled McAllister home.
But Ingoglia (9-4), a first-team all conference selection who's sixth in the conference in strikeouts, did recover, striking out the next four batters. Jacksonville still leads 1-0 heading into the third.
The Bison retired in order in the top of the ninth and will now retire from the A-Sun tournament, as Gardner-Webb avoided elimination with a 4-1 win.
Mistakes doomed Lipscomb in this one. The Bulldogs scored three unearned runs and were actually out-hit (8-9) by the Bison. At the same time, one run won't win many college baseball games, and the Gardner-Webb defense did a great job of bending but not breaking in the seventh and eighth innings.
Fourth-seeded Jacksonville will try to avoid elimination in a 3 p.m. game against top-seeded Stetson. Until then, I smell some BBQ in the next room.
Gardner-Webb, a team that won eight of its last 11 regular season games, clearly doesn't want to go home. The Bulldogs snuffed out Lipscomb scoring opportunities in the seventh and eighth while adding a run in the seventh for a 4-1 lead.
Jamall Kinard (2-for-4, two runs scored) singled to lead off the Bulldogs seventh. Jay McConnell then singled, and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. Clean-up batter Nate MacDonald then executed a perfect sac bunt that hugged from the first base line to score Kinard.
Lipscomb scored the game's first earned run in the sixth to cut Gardner-Webb's lead to 3-1.
Caleb Joseph had a one-out single to left field and advanced to second deep fly to right field in foul territory. Ryan Wilkins then drove Joseph home, slicing a single just inside the right field line.
Lipscomb looks as if it's still not over last night's deflating late-inning loss. A walk and another Bison error led to two more runs for Gardner-Webb in the fifth, and the Bulldogs now lead 3-0.
Lead-off man Jamall Kinard started the inning with a single, and Jay McConnell followed up with a walk. Daniel Cooke then hit a dribbler to Lipscomb second baseman Clay Lehning, who sailed an off-balance throw over the first baseman's head, allowing Kinard to score.
McConnell then scored, as Nate MacDonald grounded into a double play.
An error on a potential inning-ending double play allowed Gardner-Webb to load the bases and eventually take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third.
Jay McConnell singled with one out, and Daniel Cooke was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out. Nate MacDonald then hit a ground ball to shortstop Ben Williams who bobbled the ball, as all runners advanced.
With bases loaded, Josh Drewery hit a slow roller to second to score McConnell.
Sixth-seeded Lipscomb and fifth-seeded Gardner-Webb are tied at 0 going into the bottom of the third. Both teams lost Wednesday in the first round of the A-Sun, and the season of this game's loser will end today.
Senior right-hander Rob Smithson got the start for Lipscomb. He's 17-11 this season with a 5.02 ERA. He'll go against the Bulldogs' Ben Campbell, who's 6-5 with a 4.55 ERA.
Gardner-Webb won a coin flip to determine which team would be the home team, since both sat in the visitor's dugout yesterday.
Last night, the Bison lost to the real home team, Stetson, in a game they seemed to be in controlling. Lipscomb gave up three runs in the bottom of the eighth 4-3 loss that ended after 11 p.m. It will be interesting to see if the Bison can recover mentally and physically to stay alive in the A-Sun.
With Stetson's primary closer Robbie Elsemiller unavailable due to illness, freshman Justin Dechert relieved starter Corey Kluber (131 pitches thrown) in the top of the ninth. Dechert's youth didn't show, as he retired the bottom of the Lipscomb lineup in order to seal a 4-3 comeback win for the Hatters.
For seven and a half innings, Stetson (40-17, 22-6) played like it didn't belong in the A-Sun tournament. For one inning, it played like it didn't belong in the A-Sun period. The team has an uncanny ability to turn it on when it needs to and beat any team in this conference.
Just when it looked like the Stetson offense could do nothing right, the Hatters erupted for a three-run eighth inning to take a 4-3 lead and leave the hometown crowd screaming.
Lead-off man Shane Jordan was hit by a pitch and Casey Frawley followed up with a walk to chase Lipscomb starter Rex Brothers out of the game. Bison closer Brandon McClurg came to the mound in relief but gave up an RBI single to Braedyn Pruitt to cut Lipscomb's lead to 3-2.
Justin Bass then reached on a throwing error by the shortstop to load the bases with no outs. Adam Tindle became the Hatters' hero, driving a two-run double down the third baseline, giving Stetson a 4-3 lead.
Brian Pruitt reached on a fielder's choice to home to put runners on the corners with one out. Jeremy Cruz then flew out to shallow center, and Tindle tagged up but was thrown out at the plate.
Joseph Caleb's mother picked a perfect time to show up at Melching Field. She wandered into the park just as Caleb hit a towering solo shot -- a team-best eighth homer of the season -- to the power alley in left field in the top of the eighth.
The home run, which came on Stetson starter Corey Kluber's 120th pitch of the game, gave Lipscomb a 3-1 lead. Kluber recovered to end the inning with his 12th strikeout of the game, tying his career high.
The bottom of the sixth looked promising for Stetson. Shane Jordan led off with a single through the left side and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. A pair of walks loaded the bases with two outs, but designated hitter Brian Pruitt struck out swinging to end the inning and Lipscomb took a 2-1 lead into the seventh.
If Stetson can't pull it out, it won't be Corey Kluber's fault. The junior right-hander struck out two more batters in the top of the seventh for a total of 10.
Take Lipscomb's 12-15 league record and throw it in the garbage because the Bison are outplaying the A-Sun's top team.
Ben Williams' second single of the night scored Andrew Nickerson, who reached on a lead-off walk, and the Bison took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth.
Conference Freshman of the Year pitcher Rex Brothers has held the Hatters' top-ranked offense to two hits in six innings, and the Bison are in control of this game heading into the bottom of the sixth.
And by the way, is there any conference with more awesome mascots than the A-Sun? You've got Dolphins, Bison, Camels and another team named after a cowboy hat. Can you name a better collection of nicknames? I think not.
Since Game 2 lasted 3 hours, 49 minutes, Game 3 started more than an hour late. Lipscomb came out fearless against Stetson ace and A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Corey Kluber. Lipscomb lead-off man Ben Williams ripped a first-pitch fast ball into left field and stole two bases. Clean-up hitter Shane Simpkins drew a two-out walk, but Kluber stranded the runners with his third strikeout of the inning.
Stetson's Shane Jordan led off with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error by the right fielder. Casey Frawley then drove in Jordan with a single to give the Hatters a 1-0 lead in the first.
But Lipscomb isn't backing down. The Bison have a base runner on third with no outs, as Ryan Wilkins tripled of the right field wall to lead off the second. It will be interesting to see if Lipscomb can maintain its aggressiveness.
Not that the eighth inning wasn't exciting, but it's nice to see some semblance of defense in baseball sometimes. Plus, I can't count that high. That's why I write.
So it was to my delight that Jacksonville -- no offense to the Dolphins -- went down quietly in succession in top of the ninth. Three up, three down. Ball game. Belmont wins 12-7.
The third-seeded Bruins will face second-seeded Mercer at 7 p.m. Thursday, while Jacksonville will play the winner of the Stetson-Lipscomb game, which will begin at 7:50 p.m. The loser of tonight's first-round finale will face Gardner-Webb at 11 a.m. Thursday in an elimination game.
Belmont is continuing to rip every Jacksonville pitcher it faces. Against the Dolphins' third pitcher of the sixth inning, lead-off hitter Matt Reynolds increased the Bruins lead to 4-1 with an RBI single up the middle.
The Bruins are drilling everything the last two innings. Jacksonville had made often but only slight contact off Belmont's Charles Lee, until the bottom of the sixth.
That's when Jacksonville's Mike McAllister hit a two-out single before scoring on a Dan Vickers double off the left field fence.
Entering the bottom of the seventh, Belmont leads 4-2.
Somehow Jacksonville pitcher Justin Young didn't give up a run in the fifth. The score remains knotted at 1 in the sixth.
Belmont lead-off batter Matt Reynolds doubled off the right field fence with one out in the fifth. Packy Elkins followed with a single to right, and only a strike to home plate from right fielder Mike McAllister scared Reynolds back to third.
After the No. 3 batter flew out to second, Young walked clean-up hitter Ben Petsch to load the bases for designated hitter Derek Wiley. But third baseman Thomas LaPage nabbed a look-what-I've-got catch of a screaming line drive to end the inning.
And yet, Young just started the bottom of the sixth.
All this spinning and diving in the field might have gone to Jacksonville's head.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Dolphins second baseman Logan James made a stop in the hole between first and second, which appeared like it would end the fourth inning. But James rushed the throw and sailed the ball over the first baseman's outstretched glove.
Belmont's Ben Petsch, who reached on a walk, scored from second to tie the score at 1. Dolphins pitcher Charles Lee recorded his third strikeout of the inning and fifth of the game to end the threat.
The flashy Jacksonville defense continues to get it done. Third baseman Thomas LaPage fielded a roller just shy of the shortstop, spun and threw out the batter for the first out in the bottom of the third. Belmont's Carlo Testa then doubled, as left fielder Pete Clifford lost the ball in the sun. But right fielder Mike McAllister made a grab in foul territory before slamming into the fence, and pitcher Justin Young struck out the final batter looking to strand a runner on third.
Mercer reliever Cory Gearrin hit one batter but retired the other three in the ninth, and the Bears won the opening game of the Atlantic Sun tournament 5-4.
Not to be redundant, but the Bears really can turn it on when necessary. They looked calm and collected even while struggling defensively and on the mound in the first three innings and responding offensively every time Gardner-Webb plated a run.
As light rain chased the sparse crowd out of the stands, Gardner-Webb ran around the bases to tie the score at 4 in the top of the eighth.
The Bulldogs chased Mercer starter Brantley New out of the game after pinch hitter Joey Testa loaded the bases with a one-out single. Jason Lowey then came to the mound to face the top of the order. Lowey struck out one before giving up a two-run single to Daniel Cooke.
Cory Gearrin then came in for Lowe and got a ground out to end the inning.
It's a safe bet that Stetson won't lack motivation when the Atlantic Sun tournament begins today.
Not only could the Hatters become the first team to three-peat as conference champs this weekend since former A-Sun member Central Florida did it from 1995 through 1997, but the tournament also presents a last-ditch opportunity for Stetson to push for the improbable opportunity to host an NCAA Regional.