Emory University wiped out an early 2-1 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the fourth and went on to defeat Bridgewater College 5-2 to win the NCAA South Region title game Sunday evening at Piedmont University’s Loudermilk Field.
The loss ends the Eagles dramatic postseason run that began in the ODAC tournament when Bridgewater defeated nationally-ranked Shenandoah twice on the final day to win the conference title and qualify for the NCAA tournament.
The Eagles finish the 2014 season with a 36-14 record, establishing a new program mark for wins in a season. Three of the victories came in regional play, the first time a Bridgewater team has won more than one game at the regional tournament.
Bridgewater got on the board first with two runs in the top of the second. Zach Hynes singled over the first base bag and moved to third on Brendan Howell’s single to left-center field. Howell advanced to second on the throw from the outfield, giving the Eagles runners at second and third. Justin Petock singled home both runners with a line drive to center for a 2-0 Eagles lead.
Emory responded with a run in its half of the second. Daniel Iturrey led off with a single and moved to third on a single by Jared Kahn. Iturrey scored on Jared Welch’s fly ball to the wall in left, trimming Bridgewater’s lead to 2-1. Jordan Selbach singled, but was erased at second on Philip Maldari’s grounder to short for the second out of the inning. Jack Karras walked to load the bases, but Eagles’ starter Nick Corbin caught leadoff batter Wes Peacock looking at a called third strike to work out of trouble.
Bridgewater loaded the sacks in the top of the third, but Emory starter Connor Dillman pitched out of the jam. With two outs, Bryan Sanderson singled to center and Hynes followed with an infield single to the hole at short. Howell walked to load the bases, but Dillman struck out Petock to leave the bases full.
Emory took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Kahn and Welch both walked to open the frame, but Selbach popped out to Corbin on a bunt attempt for the first out of the inning. Maldari then chased home both runners with a double to the gap in left-center, giving Emory a 3-2 lead. Maldari scored when Peacock singled off Eagles reliever Dillon Via, making the score 4-2.
Bridgewater loaded the bases for the second straight inning in the top of the fifth, but once again failed to score. Sanderson and Hynes walked to open the inning and both moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Howell. After Dillman struck out Petock, Ryan Leake walked to load the bases. Dillman then fanned Tyler Hoffman to end the inning.
Emory kept the pressure on in the bottom of the fifth when Iturrey and Kahn led off with consecutive singles. That ended the night for Via as Robert Gallet entered to pitch for the Eagles. Jared Welch reached when his sacrifice bunt was bobbled by Gallet for an error, loading the bases with no outs. Selbach then hit a grounder back to the mound that Gallet knocked down. Gallet’s throw to home was in time for the force, but Hoffman dropped the throw, allowing the run to score for a 5-2 lead. The Eagles minimized the damage as Maldari grounded into a 1-2-3 double play. Welch was then caught trying to steal home, ending the inning with Emory on top 5-2.
Dillman gave Emory five solid innings on the mound, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out eight and walked five. The Eagles had plenty of chances against the Emory starter, but left nine runners on base in the first five innings.
The Emory bullpen did the job the rest of the way as Matt McMahon, Jackson Weeg and Kyle Monk combined to give up just two hits over the final four innings.
Gallet turned in a strong relief effort to keep the Eagles within striking distance. He pitched four shutout innings and allowed just three hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
The Eagles finished the game with 10 hits. Sanderson led the way with three hits and Hynes added two.
Bridgewater seniors Hynes and Gallet were named to the all-tournament team. Hynes hit safely in each of the five games and finished the tournament with 10 hits in 22 at-bats. Gallet pitched in three games, earning a win and a save. He pitched 11.2 innings and allowed three runs on 11 hits. He struck out 11 and walked one.