Baseball Falls To Eventual AAC Tournament Champions
KINGSPORT, Tenn. – It was No. 1 seed Bryan College who had the first answer for No. 4 seed Point University (Ga.) in the 2018 Appalachian Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament with a 3-1 victory on Thursday, but it was the Skyhawks who had the final say over the Lions as they soared to a 5-1 win Friday night before completing the epic run with a 7-4 triumph Monday morning that eliminated Bryan before tackling No. 2 seed Tennessee Wesleyan University during the championship bout in dramatic fashion. The fifth win for Point in the four-day stretch ended with a 6-5 16-inning contest that took nearly four and a half hours to complete, not including a lengthy weather delay that occurred in the 12th frame.
Despite impressive play by the Lions to begin conference tournament play, they found themselves on the wrong end of a hot team in search of their first-ever AAC Tournament crown, which they ultimately found along with an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round, May 14-17. Joining the Skyhawks will be AAC Tournament runner-up Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs and hopefully the Lions who have proved to be one of the most elite teams in the country, battling their way to a 40-15 overall record and 21-6 mark in AAC play, which was good enough for a No. 9 ranking in the final NAIA Coaches’ Top-25 poll.
The 45-team event features nine five-team double elimination tournaments. Opening Round qualifiers and brackets will be announced Thursday, May 10, at 3 p.m. CDT on the NAIA Facebook page.
This year’s hosts are Bowling Green (Ky.) Convention and Visitors Bureau, Faulkner University (Ala.), Georgia Gwinnett College, Oklahoma City University, Placer Valley Tourism (Calif.) and William Jessup University (Calif.), Taylor University (Ind.), University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), Visit Kingsport (Tenn.), and William Carey (Miss.).
The nine opening round champions and World Series host Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) make up the field for the 2018 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series. The World Series, which is taking place at Harris Field for the 19th-consecutive season and 27th time overall, is scheduled to run from May 25 – June 1.
For the complete opening round schedule, click here.
For more information on the 2018 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series, click here.
BRYAN VS. POINT (MAY, 5 – RECAP)
After falling to the Skyhawks the night before, the Lions were trying to set the tone early as they got Saturday morning’s elimination game underway. It didn’t take long for Bryan to jump on the board, as Trevor Behrent advanced to first on a catcher interference on the first play of the opening frame. Wade Weinburger followed with a single thru the hole at second base, which advanced Behrent to second. Unfortunately for Bryan, Point managed to turn a double play, but Behrent was able to stay alive and reach scoring position at third. Behrent continued home when Fernando Garcia struck a pitch and sent it barreling deep down the right-field line for an RBI and the initial run of the game for a 1-0 Lion lead.
The second and third innings were left scoreless. It wasn’t until the bottom of the fourth that the Skyhawks capitalized and were able to take control of the lead. A leadoff single to left-center put a runner on, and a two-run homerun sent over the left-field fence cleared the bases and put Point on top 2-1.
Bryan did a good job trying to bring a halt to Point’s momentum by answering in the top of the fifth with a pair of runs. Tyler Scott led off and was patient at the plate, giving way to a walk. Back-to-back singles, registered by the duo of Behrent and Weinburger, brought Scott in for the score and advanced Behrent to third. All it took to score Behrent was a sacrifice fly to center by Cody Young, flipping the advantage and giving Bryan a 3-2 edge.
Little did the Lions know it would be the last lead they would have as their effort to stop a Skyhawk’s rally came up short. In the bottom of the fifth, Point pieced together a four-run difference maker. A double and fly out resulted in a runner on third. A groundout followed, which allowed one runner to score, but it also gave Bryan two outs needing only one more out to end the frame. That was easier said than done as a single to right-center was trailed by a two-run homer. A double and singled ensued, yielding another run for the Skyhawks to create a 6-3 deficit.
Bryan produced one more run in the game, which came in the top of the sixth. Rodney Tennie sparked the offense with a leadoff single up the middle. David Scoggins followed with a single to left-center, advancing Tennie to second. Another single, this time by Jacob Justice, ripped to center loaded the bases and applied pressure as Point had yet to find an out. A pop out gave the Skyhawks their first out, and the next out came on a sac-fly punched down the left-field line by Behrent. The play brought in Tennie for the score before a fly out brought an end to the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Point chipped in an insurance run off a solo bomb, as the Skyhawks went on to seal the 7-4 win and spot in the title game.
Arinson Martinez brought his record to 4-5 on the season after tossing the first five innings for Bryan, surrendering seven hits and six runs with no walks and a trio of strikeouts. Dalton Ross relieved the next two frames, giving up three hits and one run while walking a pair of batters and recording a lone strikeout. Jesus Astudillo closed the final inning, turning in a clean sheet with one walk and three K’s.
Offensively, the Lions were led by Weinburger and Justice with two hits apiece, the only players for the team to have a multi-hit outing. Weinburger collected one RBI, and so did Behrent who had one hit and two runs scored, C. Young who had a lone connection, and Garcia who posted a double for his one hit. Garcia’s double marked the only extra-base hit for the Lions.
Because of their performances, both Weinburger and pitcher Stephen Chamblee represented Bryan on the All-Tournament Team. Weinburger hit .300 in the tournament and produced a .733 slugging percentage. Weinburger amassed two homeruns, five RBI’s, and three runs scored. In the Lion’s only win over Point in the tournament, it was Chamblee who controlled the pace of the game as the starting pitcher. The AAC Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year tossed eight innings, holding the Skyhawks to a mere five hits and one unearned run while walking three and notching six strikeouts for his AAC-leading 11th win of the year.