Wofford Falls In SOCON Final
In postseason baseball, all it takes for something special to happen is for a team or a player to get hot at just the right time. We saw that happen with the Braves last season when they were floundering for most of the season up until August when they swept the Cardinals and finally got above .500. They went on one of the most memorable runs since South Carolina came out of the elimination bracket to win the 2010 College World Series.
No doubt, in this 2022 Southern Conference Baseball Tournament, that team was #4 seed UNC-Greensboro. The Spartans opened the tournament with a 7-6 win over the Citadel on Wednesday night. After falling to Wofford 6-3 on Friday morning, they slipped into the elimination bracket. For many teams, a loss to the #1 seed when you had them on the ropes save for 1 big inning would be deflating enough to make you just want to go 2 and ‘cue (like South Carolina used to in Hoover). But, instead, something clicked in this team. They found a different gear and absolutely went on a blistering tear at the plate along with a couple of key pitching performances such as the 130+ pitch outing from reliever Price King, who pitched 8 innings between the 2 elimination games last night combined to really help spare his team’s pitching depth (sound like Matt Price to anyone else?) and a 128 pitch complete game in the first game of the championship from Austin Parsley.
In the 5 games they played since the loss to the Terriers Friday, UNC-Greensboro scored 55 runs, holding opponents to 16 in that same span. They outhit their opposition 73-37. You cannot help but tip the cap to them. This is a team that started out 0-7 in conference play during the regular season, finished just 2 games over .500, etc. To make a run like this makes them a dangerous team for whoever they face in the NCAA Tournament (oops.. Spoiler alert. Lol Yes, they won the championship).
The game started much like Friday morning’s between these 2 teams. Wofford opted to give senior sidearm righty Dalton Rhadans his first career start. Rhadans is listed as Wofford’s closer, but he is able to pitch in any role out of the bullpen. He held a record of 7-3 in 33 appearances with an ERA of 3.12 in 69.1 innings pitched. He still had his struggles in the early going, having to work out of a jam in the 1st inning after a 1 out walk, a fielders choice at 2nd that allowed the batter to reach for out #2, and a single. He got the last batter of the inning to ground to short where they forced the runner 6 unassisted.
He walked the leadoff man in the 2nd inning, but retired the next 3 in order. It was the 3rd inning where things started to get hairy for the Terriers (I realize that was a terrible pun.. haha).
Rhadans gave up a leadoff single to Kennedy Jones (speaking of Jones, who was named to the all-tournament team and the tournament’s most outstanding player – he did not have any home runs and struck out 3 times in game 2, but did break the SoCon tournament record for RBIs with 17. He tied for the most 5 homers, had the most runs scored in the tournament with 10, most hits in the tournament with 16, and most total bases of the tournament with 36) . Hogan Windish then came up and hit his first of two 2-run homers of the game. That started a snowball effect of home runs. Pres Cavenaugh hit a solo bomb to right. Mitchell Smith blasted one to the top of the green monster for a solo homer. That rally was all the Spartans would end up needing.
Freshman right hander Hunter Shuey got the start on the hill for Greensboro. He carried nearly as 6 point ERA into his 5th start of the season with a 1-2 record in 22 appearances. If you’re one to think that numbers don’t lie, especially with how prolific Wofford has been on offense this season, you would have to think the scales were weighing towards Wofford having a great shot to rebound and claim their first conference tournament title since 2007. But that is not at all how things played out.
The Terriers’ run of hitting hard into bad luck reared its head again in the early goings of this game. They went down in order in the first inning after making decent contact on a pair of groundouts and a hard hit liner to 1st. In the 2nd inning, the Terriers once again had something brewing after Ryan Galanie led off with a single. He advanced into scoring position on a passed ball, but on a hard hit grounder to short from Brennen Dorighi, Galanie was forced out at 3rd 6-5. Dorighi was erased on a fielders choice force play at 2nd when Jack Renwick grounded to short. With 1 on, Trey Yunger made solid contact but lined to center to end the inning.
The Terriers finally found their way onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the 4th after Ryan Galanie reached on an error on the 2nd baseman with 1 out. Brennen Dorighi grounded out to move him to 3rd and then Jack Renwick doubled off the top right corner of the green monster in left to score him. Trey Yunger followed that up with a single to score Renwick. Those 2 runs would be all Wofford could muster as they would manage only 2 more hits over the final 3 innings en route to a run rule 12-2 loss in 7 innings.
The Terriers will need some help from their RPI in order to still make the NCAA tournament. Their RPI was 30TH after beating Samford yesterday. With the 2 losses to Greensboro today, it will undoubtedly drop, but the question is how far? The most recent projections from D1 baseball had Wofford in as the 3 seed in the Greenville (NC) regional at East Carolina. They could drop to a 4 seed, but there is still a very good chance that the Terriers could earn the Southern Conference’s first at-large bid to the NCAA tournament since 2012. We will find out tomorrow night.