Wofford Falls in SoCon Title Game
How do you follow up a wild record-breaking offensive explosion of a game that saw 39 combined hits, 30 combined runs, 11 combined doubles, and 388 pitches thrown? Ordinarily, regardless of the level of baseball, that means the next game is one where you either get blown out because your pitching is gassed, or the exact opposite – bats so gassed you get shut out 1-0. Very rarely do you see back to back offensive thrillers. But, that is exactly what the 1-seeded Samford Bulldogs and the 3-seeded Wofford Terriers brought to the table in a critical game to decide who is moving on as the winners bracket champion to the Southern Conference Tournament championship game.
This game was a complete 180 from last night in the first inning. In the 16-14 win over Mercer Thursday night, the first inning took nearly 45 minutes as the Terriers sent 9 men to the plate and scored 4. Tonight, Marshall Toole and Ryan Galanie went quickly on 8 pitches before Trey Yunger lined a single to right field. Younger got a little bit too ambitious as he was gunned out at 2nd with ease to retire the side.
Charlie Weber got the start on the mound for Wofford and gave up a leadoff single. He was caught stealing for the 2nd out, but the Bulldogs threatened once again after a single and a walk. Weber was able to get out unscathed with a fly ball to center.
Wofford threatened in the top of the 2nd after Dixon Black was hit by a pitch to start the frame. Brice Martinez followed it with a base knock that sent Black 1st to 3rd on the hit and run. That threat was quickly squashed after Cameron Gill flied to medium-depth left field. Black tagged up, but was easily doubled off 7-2. David Wiley put the period on the sentence, grounding into a fielder’s choice at short. Brice Martinez was forced out 6-4 to send the game to the bottom of the 2nd.
The exchange of meaningless threats continued until the top of the 4th inning, when the Terriers finally broke into the run column. Trey Yunger started the inning with an infield single to 3rd, and later stole 2nd. Dixon Black was hit by a pitch and Brice Martinez once again singled on the infield, bunting back to the pitcher to load the bases. Cameron Gill lifted a sac fly to left to score Yunger. Unfortunately for the Terriers, that lone run would be it as David Wiley lined to 3rd, going for an unassisted 5-3 double play to retire the side.
The lead held for an inning, evaporating when Samford DH John Anderson, the SoCon leader in home runs, blasted one to the top of the Green Monster for a 3 run shot. Samford added 2 more runs in the bottom of the 6th to up the lead to 5-1 before Wofford did something they have a knack for – rallying with a big inning to erase a deficit.
David Wiley led off the 7th with a single and stole 2nd. After a 1 out bunt single from Jack Renwick, Marshall Toole laid down a suicide squeeze up the 1st base line, scoring Wiley. Following a 2 out walk to Ryan Galanie, Trey Yunger doubled to the left field corner to drive home 2. The inning and the rally were extended on a throwing error on the Samford 3rd baseman after a Dixon Black grounder. Yunger was running on the pitch and came home unearned on the error to tie the game at 5.
It did not take long for the Bulldogs to reclaim the lead with a 1 out RBI single off Lucas Mahlstedt, who worked the final 3 innings of the game, doing a fantastic job of saving Todd Interdonato from burning his whole bullpen.
Wofford would end up using 4 pitchers in this game – Weber, Luke Stephens, Sam Stratton, and Mahlstedt. The latter 3 combined for 4 innings of work, surrendering 3 runs on 6 hits with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts.
Their efforts to keep the Terriers in the game paid off in the wildest fashion I believe I have ever seen in a college baseball game – possibly in a baseball game in general. Trailing by a run with 2 out in the top of the 9th inning, Wofford cashed in on back to back 1 out walks to Ryan Galanie and Trey Yunger. After a fly out to right by Dixon Black, the hopes of the game rested on Brice Martinez’s shoulders.
Brice hit a liner that bounced off the 1st base bag and ricocheted all the way over towards 2nd for a literal base hit. The ricochet led to some chaos on the base paths, but no out was recorded and Ryan Galanie came home to tie it. Cameron Gill later laced a 1-1 pitch into center field to score Trey Yunger, giving the Terriers the 7-6 lead.
Mahlstedt walked a batter with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th, but got a pop up to 2nd and a called strike 3 to end the game, giving Mahlstedt his 7th win of the season.
Samford claimed a 9-5 victory in the final elimination game of the tournament to set up a rematch with the Terriers, with Wofford needing just 1 win to punch their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament since 2007.
The Terriers were the home team for the first time in this tourney, and hoped that would provide the advantage. However, Samford proved early on that just like in every meeting between these 2 sides this season, they were not going to be an “easy out”.
Todd Interdonato opted to use Junior righty Mike Eggert on the bump, who came in sporting a 6.59 ERA. In spite of that, he managed to compile a 4-1 record in 5 starts, appearing in 12 games.
He opposed Jacob Newman, who entered with an ERA over 9 with a 2-2 record in 8 starts with 15 appearances. Samford struck for a run in the top of the 1st after a leadoff walk and a hit-n-run single that put men on the corners. First Baseman Stephen Klein lined a sac fly to left to cash in on the leadoff walk. That 1 run would be all, but it held until the 4th inning as Eggert rebounded with back to back shutout frames.
Despite Eggert keeping the Terriers in the game, Samford’s defense did plenty to ensure they couldn’t get anything going. In the bottom of the 2nd, Brice Martinez singled with 1 out, followed by Cameron Gill grounding into a fielder’s choice at short. The shortstop bobbled it for an E6, allowing both runners to reach safely. But, with a chance to tie it, David Wiley lined hard to the shortstop, doubling off Martinez to end the inning.
In the 4th, Wofford once again got a pair on with 1 out via a single and a walk. But, Brice Martinez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
It took until the 7th inning for the Terriers to finally break into the run column. Brice Martinez tripled to the right field corner with 1 out. Two pitches later, Cameron Gill singled to left to score Martinez, cutting the deficit at the time to 7-1.
Wofford would rally again in the bottom of the 9th, sparked by a leadoff single from Trey Yunger. Dixon Black and Brice Martinez followed by drawing consecutive walks. Cameron Gill was plunked to force in the Terriers’ 2nd run. But, Samford made a pitching change, opting for closer Ben Pletschke, who struck out each of the next 3 hitters to win it 7-2 for the Bulldogs, forcing a winner-take-all game 2.
Wofford leaders in game 1: Cameron Gill. 1-3 with both RBIs. Brice Martinez was 2 for 3 with a run scored and Trey Yunger was 2 for 4 with a run scored. Jack Renwick was 1-3.
The storyline ahead of the second game was what Wofford was going to do with their pitching. The Terriers used just 2 arms in the first game – Mike Eggert and Dom Marcoccio. In essence, aside from those 2, anybody was fair game to make an appearance.
Impressively, it was Matthew Marchal that took the ball – just a day and a half after tossing a complete game with 128 pitches thrown. Despite all that, Marchal didn’t show many signs of fatigue.
On the flipside of the pitching story line, with their arms all but depleted, Samford turned to Redshirt Freshman righty Heath Clevenger, who came into the game having appeared in just 7 games, logging 8 innings throughout the course of the season, compiling a 5.62 ERA. He would need to pitch the game of his life to contain the Terriers’ capable offense and keep his team in it.
He did just that, but first, let’s get back to Matthew Marchal. The senior pitched 4 and a third innings, with 4 hits and 4 runs. He walked 3 and struck out 3. Unfortunately, ome play doomed him. Only 2 of those runs were earned. The other 2 came on a fly ball to right that should have ended the first inning. But, it kicked off the heel of David Wiley’s glove, allowing the Bulldogs to take the lead 3-0. Those 3 runs would be all they would need.
*Reverses the tape*. Heath Clevenger not only shut Wofford out in his 6 and two-thirds innings, but also no-hit them up until the 7th inning, which was another example of “things that make you say it is not our night/day.”
The frame started with a lot of promise. Ryan Galanie drew a leadoff walk. But, on what was supposed to be a hit-n-run, Trey Yunger struck out swinging and stepped across the plate, interfering with the throw down to 2nd, resulting in a double play. The Terriers still made something of the inning, as Dixon Black drew a walk and stole 2nd, coming home on an RBI single from Brice Martinez. But, Cameron Gill flied to center to end the potential of a rally, taking a 4-1 deficit to the 8th.
Wofford did pick up the much-needed momentum in the 8th inning when Samford worked the bases loaded with nobody out. Bulldog 1st baseman Stephen Klein lined straight to Dixon Black in right, who made an absolutely perfect throw to the plate to gun out the lead runner by a mile for a 9-2 double play. The very next batter flied to right to end the inning, getting Lucas Mahlstedt out of a jam.
In the ensuing half inning, Wofford got a leadoff walk out of David Wiley and a single from Gunanr Johnson. Wiley stole 2nd, and Jack Renwick laid down his 28th sac bunt of the season to move both runners into scoring position. That set up an RBI sac fly to center from Marshall Toole that cut the Samford lead down to 2 heading to the bottom of the 8th.
Samford got a huge insurance run in the frame, cashing in a leadoff single with an RBI double immediately after. That made it 5-2, which unfortunately for the Terriers, would be the final.
Wofford got a couple of runners on in the top of the 9th on a Dixon Black single and a Brice Martinez walk. But, Cameron Gill struck out swinging and David Wiley grounded into a fielder’s choice at short, forcing Black 6-4 to end the 2023 season.
Wofford was led by Brice Martinez and Gunnar Johnson, who both logged an RBI on a combined 2 for 6 day. Dixon Black was 2 for 3 with a run scored. Four different Terriers drew a walk in the contest – Ryan Galanie, Dixon Black, Brice Martinez, and David Wiley.
The Terriers finished the 2023 season with a final record of 40-19.