HIGH POINT, N.C. – The sixth-ranked and top-seeded Salisbury University baseball team earned its first trip to the NCAA Division III College World Series since 2015, outlasting the fifth-seeded Birmingham-Southern Panthers, 9-6, over 12 innings in Sunday afternoon's NCAA Tournament game in the High Point Regional at Truist Point.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Sea Gulls drew first blood in the top of the second. Jacob Ference was hit by a pitch with one out and advanced to second on a groundout. Cullen McAuliffe then tucked a two-out double into the right field corner, bringing around Ference to put SU up 1-0.
- The Panthers answered immediately with a string of five unanswered runs. Alfredo Granier singled with one out in the bottom of the second, then Noah Best tripled him home to tie the game. Best in turn scored on a groundout by Andrew Dutton, giving BSC a 2-1 advantage.
- In the third, Cole Steadman led off with a base hit, then after a walk and a sac bunt Steadman came home on a Will Evans groundout to make it 3-1 BSC. In the fourth, Ian Hancock and Granier hit back-to-back singles to lead off, then after a sac bunt Dutton singled them both home to put the Panthers up 5-1.
- Salisbury got those runs back to tie it in the next two innings. Kavi Caster singled to lead off the fifth and took second on a groundout. Stephen Rice came up next and pegged a base hit into center, scoring Caster to get the Sea Gulls back within 5-2.
- In the sixth, Ference led off with a base knock. After a sac bunt and a groundout, Justin Meekins snuck a single through the middle, scoring Ference. Caster came up next and clubbed a two-run home run to right, his fifth of the year and second of the regional, tying the game at 5-5.
- The Sea Gulls nudged back ahead in the top of the seventh. Cameron Hyder singled with two out and ended up on third on a stolen base-plus-error. Ference followed with a soft liner into center for an RBI single, putting SU on top 6-5.
- BSC rallied to even things in the eighth. Drew Love led off with a double and was given third base after being tripped, then Jack Fleming lifted a sac fly into left to bring Love home and tie it at 6-6.
- The game sailed through to extras, and Salisbury went ahead to stay in the top of the 12th. Sky Rahill led off with a double down the left field line, then Hyder bunted him over to third. Ference was hit by a pitch, and the Panthers walked Luke Weddell intentionally to load the bases.
- Pinch-hitter Brady O'Neil came up next and hit a grounder that shortstop Granier overthrew to second base, allowing Rahill and Ference to score and moving Weddell up to third. Weddell scored soon after on a balk, pushing the Sea Gull advantage to 9-6.
- Back out for his sixth inning of relief in the bottom of the 12th, Corey Burton gave up a hit batsman and a single to bring the tying run to the plate with one out, but Burton froze Steadman for a strikeout and got Love to line out to Meekins in center, finishing off a four-game regional sweep for the Sea Gulls and a wild celebration at the mound.
SALISBURY GAME NOTES
- Justin Meekins racked up four hits on the day to lead a Sea Gull attack that featured 15 knocks and five multi-hit games. Meekins went 4-for-7 with a run scored and an RBI.
- Kavi Caster finished 2-for-7 with a two-run homer and two runs scored. Caster has now hit four home runs in his last seven games, including two at the High Point Regional.
- Jacob Ference capped a monster series at the plate by going 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored.
- Sky Rahill went 2-for-6 with a double and the go-ahead run in the 12th inning, while Stephen Rice had two hits and an RBI.
- Corey Burton (3-0) earned his third win in the four-game regional with an iron man performance out of the bullpen. Burton tossed six innings of relief, giving up just one unearned run on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts on 75 pitches.
- Clayton Dwyer made the start for Salisbury for his third pitching appearance in four days. Dwyer allowed three runs on five hits over two-plus innings with one walk and two strikeouts.
- Brock Hilligoss and Brandon Epstein combined for four innings of two-run ball to bridge the gap between Dwyer and Burton.
- The win gives Sea Gull head coach Troy Brohawn 200 career victories at Salisbury. Brohawn is now 200-58-2 at the helm, and his .773 winning percentage is the third-best among active Division III head coaches.
- Salisbury punches its ticket to its sixth College World Series on the 20th anniversary of its first trip in 2001. The Sea Gulls last appeared in the Division III CWS in 2015 when the tournament was held in Appleton, Wisc.
BIRMINGHAM-SOUTHERN GAME NOTES
- Andrew Dutton provided a big spark for the Panthers in the nine-hole, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
- Alfredo Granier went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, while Drew Love finished 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored.
- Robbie Lively (5-2) endured the loss out of the bullpen. Lively gave up three runs (one earned) on three hits over two innings with one walk and one balk.
- BSC starter Luke Drummond lasted three innings, giving up one run. Andy Hammond came on from there and powered through seven innings in relief, giving up five runs (four earned).
- The Sea Gulls will now head to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the 2021 NCAA Division III College World Series.
- The tournament begins on Friday, June 4, at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Salisbury's opponent and game time will be determined in the coming days.