Wofford Advances To SOCON Championship
#1 Seeded Wofford opened the 2022 Southern Conference Tournament after a double bye with an early start on Friday, with a 9 AM matchup with UNC-Greensboro.
In the early going, it was a pitcher’s duel between Matthew Marchal and UNCG senior Jared Mathewson. Both arms were able to break out of jams in the early going. Wofford had a huge chance early on as both Nolen Hester and Lawson Hill reached on back to back errors in the 1st inning. Mathewson rebounded and got John Dempsey and Ryan Galanie to strike out and Brennen Dorighi to ground out to short to avert the threat. From there, the Terriers would be no-hit through the 4th inning when Dorman alum Jack Renwick singled with 2 out. The Terriers had 2 on in that inning until Ryan Galanie (who reached on a walk and went 1st to 3rd on the single) got caught leaning and was picked off to end the inning.
UNC-Greensboro drew first blood in the game with an RBI groundout in the top of the 5th. But that would be the only run Matthew Marchal, an alum of St Joe’s and junior right hander for the Terriers, would allow in his 6 innings of work. Marchal gave up 1 earned run on 6 hits with no walks, and 6 strikeouts. He pitched out of several jams behind some great defensive plays such as Ryan Galanie’s diving snag on a sac bunt attempt that was lined about halfway up the 3rd base line and Zeb Roos’ diving grab on a sinking line drive in deep left center to save a run.
Wofford finally cracked the scoreboard in the bottom of the 6th with an RBI sac fly from John Dempsey to score Nolen Hester. Ryan Galanie followed that up by giving the Terriers the lead with an RBI triple, and would later score himself on a wild pitch to make it 3-1. The Terriers added on with 2 more runs in the bottom of the 7th on a Brice Martinez single that plated Trey Yunger and a Lawson Hill single to score Yunger.
The Terriers turned to Dalton Rhadans in the 8th to close things out. He hit a batter with 1 out, giving up a 2 run blast to the next batter. But, he was able to close the door and Wofford was able to advance in the winners bracket with a 6-3 win.
Wofford is now into the semifinal round, and will face the winner of Samford vs Mercer tomorrow at noon.
The Terriers, after their 6-3 win over UNC-Greensboro on Friday morning, entered Saturday in the winners bracket needing just 1 win to lock up a spot in the Southern Conference Tournament championship game. That win would have to come against an opponent that has proven to be a thorn in Wofford’s side this season – the Samford Bulldogs. Samford is the only team to take a series from Wofford this season, not just in SoCon play, but out of every team the Terriers played this season.
Samford could be summed up as a pest to teams that had hopes of making a run at the SoCon regular season title down the stretch. Samford took 2 out of 3 from Mercer when the Bears were nipping at Wofford’s heels the last week of the regular season, allowing Wofford to clinch the SoCon regular season title last Thursday night with a blowout win on the road at VMI. Samford, under first year head coach Tony David was 26-27 overall and 12-9 in the Southern Conference, which was enough to tie for 3rd in the standings with UNC-Greensboro. The bulldogs, led both offensively and defensively by junior 1st baseman Stephen Klein, who fielded .398 entering the tournament with a .333 batting average, 8 doubles, 5 homers, and 32 RBIs, were not going to be an easy test.
Coulson Buchanan got the nod for the Terriers on the mound, and pitched effectively despite the fact he ended up getting a no decision. He pitched out of 2 out trouble in the 1st after plunking Colton Ledbetter and then giving up a single to Stephen Klein by getting a fly ball to center. He pitched back to back 1-2-3 innings in the 2nd and 3rd before finally making his biggest mistake of the game. He hit Stephen Klein and then left a 1-1 pitch hanging to Will David that he crushed to the patio of the condominiums in left center field to give Samford a 2-1 lead. Buchanan would go on to pitch into the 5th before being pulled with 1 out after surrendering a single and a double back to back.
Buchanan’s final line was 4.1 innings, 3 earned runs, 4 hits, no walks, and 5 strikeouts. He gave way to Holden Wilder, who put out the fire and managed to pick up his 8th win of the season with 1.2 innings of 1 hit ball with no walks, no runs, and a K.
Offensively, the game played out in the fashion Wofford has become so accustomed to. The Terriers struggled in the early innings, having left 4 on base through the 1st three innings (they would strand 11 runners throughout the course of the game) with just 1 run. They trailed 3-2 going to the bottom of the 5th when they had an offensive explosion. It all started with a 1 out double from Terrier DH Brennen Dorighi that scored John Dempsey (who led off with a single).. After Jack Renwick walked to follow the double, Trey Yunger singled home Brennen. Zeb Roos singled in Dorighi and Renwick to make it 5-3 in favor of the Terriers. Brice Martinez grounded to short, and they forced Yunger at 3rd 6-5 on the fielders choice for the 2nd out. Nolen Hester singled to score Roos to extend it to 6-3, capping the 4 run rally.
The Terrier bats got hot again in the bottom of the 6th when they hung yet another 4 spot on a n RBI single from Jack Renwick, a 2 run double from Zeb Roos, and a sac liner for an RBI from Brice Martinez.
All in all, the Wofford bats were led by Zeb Roos, who was 2-3 with a double, a single, 4 RBI, and a run scored. Brice Martinez tallied 2 RBIs for the 2nd most on the team today despite his 0-4 showing. Brennen Dorighi, Jack Renwick, Trey Yunger, and Nolen Hester each had 1 RBI. Jack Renwick was 1 for 3 with a single, an RBI, a walk, an HBP, and 3 runs scored.
Luke Stephens came in for the final 3 innings, earning his first save with a hit, no walks, and 3 strikeouts to complete the 10-3 victory for Wofford.
With the win, the Terriers locked up a spot in the Southern Conference tournament championship game on Sunday at noon where they will take on the elimination bracket champion and only need 1 win to take home the SoCon championship and the automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament (and even if they don’t win, the Terriers’ RPI is high enough to where they could earn at at-large bid for the NCAA tournament). Should they not win Sunday, it would force a winner-take-all game 2 to be played 40 minutes after game 1.
The remainder of the elimination bracket games will be played today with Mercer taking on UNC-Greensboro at 4:00 and the winner of Mercer-UNCG advancing to play Samford in the nightcap. Winner of the nightcap will be Wofford’s opponent in the championship game tomorrow.
The Terriers came into Championship Sunday needing just 1 win to secure their first SoCOn Tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament bid since 2007. The task would not be an easy one for them as they would have to go up against UNC-Greensboro to do it. The UNC-G Spartans have been a solid offensive team all season long. Their team batting average entering the conference tournament was .263. They averaged in the ballpark of 8.5 runs per game this season. They have good hitters up and down their lineup including Sophomore right fielder Pres Cavenaugh (batting .343 on the season with 86 hits, 13 doubles, and 55 RBIs), Junior 2nd baseman Hogan Windish (.387 average with 14 homers and 13 doubles and 56 RBI), junior catcher and Byrnes alum Dallas Callahan (.313 avg with 17 doubles), and last but certainly not least the inevitable SoCon tournament MVP and all tournament 1st teamer Freshman left fielder Kennedy Jones (.375 BA, 16 doubles, 9 homers, 67 RBIs).
This Greensboro team is no slouch. We have seen that since they nearly took 2 of 3 from South Carolina (granted, yes the Gamecocks were bad this year, but that is a big deal for a mid major). The Terriers had an all out battle with them up until the latter innings in their tournament opener on Friday morning, where Wofford beat them 6-3. Since then, the Spartans have gone on an absolute tear, ripping their way through the elimination bracket with a 9-7 win over Western Carolina on Friday night and 2 dominant wins over Mercer (16-5), and Samford (8-2). A lot of that offensive success has come on the back of Kennedy Jones, who has made his mark on the record books in the tournament so far.
As of this morning, he was tied with Pres Cavenaugh for most hits with 12. Tied with Hogan Windish for 2nd most runs scored with 7. Tied with Samford’s Colton Ledbetter for most RBIs with 11. Led for most home runs with 3. Led for most total bases with 23. And he only added to all of that today.
Wofford pretty much decided to play it safe with pitching in case of a game 2 and put it in the hands of their offense to try and win it in 1 game – and why not? No need to break out the stat book on them to tell you.. They can score runs in bunches. They were more than capable. So, Josh Vitus was given the start for the Terriers.
From the beginning, it was clear that UNC-G was still hot at the plate, picking up right where they left off from last night. They were not being fooled on anything Vitus had to throw, taking everything up the middle. They scored 2 in the top of the 1st, and plated 2 more on a Kennedy Jones homer in the top of the 2nd. That, paired with the fact Wofford was hitting into a lot of tough luck swinging early and often set the tone. The Terriers were making hard contact off of UNCG starter Austin Parsley early on. Lining out and driving deep fly ball outs to go in order in each of the 1st 2 innings. Normally, that is not bad. Wofford has rallied from behind to beat UNC-G several times this season. We are used to seeing Wofford string together 1 big inning in which they blow the game wide open. But that did not happen today in game 1. They mustered just 2 runs on 7 hits.
Kennedy Jones went on to tie the tournament record for home runs with his 5th in the 5th inning as well as tie the tournament record for RBIs with 16. In the end, Greensboro forced a winner take all game 2 with a 10-2 win over the Terriers.
Game 2 will begin at 4:10 PM.