Spartans Defeat Furman by Mercy Rule, Earning the Program's First-Ever Tournament Title
GREENVILLE, S.C. – UNCG baseball defeated the Furman Paladins, 13-1 in seven innings to earn the program's first-ever Southern Conference Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon. After falling 6-4 in game one of the championship earlier in the day, the Spartans tallied their school record fourth tournament win en route to earning the automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals next weekend. It marks the first time since 1997 that UNCG will go to a regional.
“You start with Jake Lewis, and his ability to go out there and pitch like that under these conditions and circumstances.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “He hasn't had an extended outing in quite some time. It was remarkable. I thought he got better as he went. Once his pitch count got up beyond what he was accustomed to, (Dan) Loats was able to come in there and really make huge pitches. To get out of that mess we were in, with the bases loaded and striking out (Cam) Whitehead was huge, and really gave us a lot of momentum.”
“I can't say enough about Ryne Sigmon.” Jarrett continued, “He hasn't had a lot of opportunity to come in and play lately, to come in and hit a home run from both sides of the plate and play the right field defense that he played, that was game-changing stuff. Tripp Shelton deserved to be the most outstanding player of the tournament, defensively, offensively, he just had a truly great weekend. Our catcher back there, has essentially caught every inning for us all year. He's beat up, but hanging in there. This is the toughest team I have ever been a part of. They have overcome a lot of adversity along the way, and to accomplish what they just accomplished, backs against the wall, having lost the first game is a testament to their toughness and the character these guys have.”
Sophomore Jake Lewis (Wendell, N.C./Corinth Holders) started the winner-take-all championship game. In his fourth start of the season, the left-hander went a career-best 5.1 innings, allowing four hits, one earned run and struck out four hitters. Dan Loats (Eden Prairie, Minn./NIACC) came on in relief, getting out of a bases loaded jam with a strikeout and a fly out before closing out the game in the seventh inning.
Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) led the Spartan offense. The senior first baseman finished 3-for-4 with four RBI, two runs scored, and a home run. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth) continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-4 with four RBI, and two runs scored. Shelton earned the tournament's Walt Nadzak Most Outstanding Player award. Shelton hit .526 in the tournament, with three doubles, a home run, drove in nine runs and scored seven times. Ryne Sigmon (Danville, Va./Danville CC) got his first start of the tournament and he finished 2-for-2 with two RBI, three runs scored and hit a pair of home runs.
UNCG used the long ball to its advantage in the first two innings. After a Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) walk led off the game, Goss hammered his eighth home run of the season to put UNCG up 2-0. Sigmon hit his third homer of the season, an opposite field shot to put UNCG up 3-0 after two. Both homers came with two outs.
The Spartans plated another run with two outs in the top of the third, taking a 4-0 lead. After Shelton drew a walk, Goss again clutched up, driving a single to right field to score Shelton and put UNCG up 4-0.
Furman cut into the lead in the fourth inning, getting an RBI from Cam Whitehead, but that was it for the Furman offense.
Sigmon helped the Spartans regain their four-run cushion in the seventh inning, hitting his second home run of the game, a solo shot to lead things off. UNCG continued to take advantage of a fatigued Furman bullpen. The Spartans put two on via hit by pitch before Shelton doubled down the left field line to plate a pair. After a walk to Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence), Goss hit an RBI single to bring Shelton around. After another walk loaded the bases, Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest) hit into a fielder's choice. The throw home got away from the Paladin defender and two Spartans scored on the play. Ryan Clinch (Jamestown, N.C./Brunswick CC) drove in a pair after reaching on a fielder's choice and an error. Shelton added another two-RBI single later in the frame, when the dust settled, UNCG had scored nine runs and took a 13-1 lead.
Loats came out and loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but got Carter Grote to hit to Goss at first who took it himself to give UNCG the mercy rule-shortened victory.
UNCG finds out when its season continues tomorrow when the NCAA Baseball Selection show airs on ESPN2 at noon.