In the five years that Auburn University has begun it’s annual fall invitational tournament, Plainsman Park has become Howard Lake Field, Jr., as the Pirates have amassed a record of 6-1 since the Fall of 2009 at this yearly extravaganza. It is always a big deal for the young Pirate baseball players to play in an SEC ballpark, and with competition coupled with the atmosphere, the Pirates always seem to get up for this tourney more than most.
Friday proved to produce the same results as they faced the defending national champions, Central Alabama, in game 1 and ACCC tourney qualifier, Snead State, in game 2, winning both by the same score of 4-3.
In game one versus CACC, Pirate ace, Dalton Rentz took the mound and was his usual self, tossing 3 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only 2 hits, while punching out 3 hitters, but allowing an uncustomary 3 walks. However, Rentz, always the competitor, pitched out of a 3rd inning bases loaded jam to keep the Trojans off the board.
The Pirates, serving as the visiting team in this game, jumped on the Trojan starter early, plating 3 runs in the top of the first inning with 3 consecutive walks to start the game. A sacrifice fly by Trevor Kieboom put the Pirates up 1-0. Another walk to Ben Williams reloaded the bases and Jared Martin, just missed a bases clearing double on an outstanding play by the CACC third baseman to keep the score 1-0 with 2 outs. Jake Maziar then hammered a huge 2 run single to give Rentz a comfortable 3-0 lead.
In the third, John Holland delivered a one single, stole second and later scored on Kieboom’s RBI single to give the Pirate pitching staff a 4-0 lead and all the runs they would need.
CACC, ever competing, made a run in the 4th and 5th, scoring 2 off of Colt Ramsey and a single run off of Dylan Lee to pull within 4-3. However, Huntbo Mitchell settled things down real quickly, but dominating the Trojan hitters in the 6th inning. Not to be forgotten, was outstanding centerfield play by James Cunningham, who made superman catch to save 3 runs, and threw out a runner at the plate to preserve the lead, as well.
Closer, Chris Brown, came on in the 7th to shut down a 1 run ballgame. After surrendering a lead off seeing eye flare single, Brown threw an errant pickoff throw to allow the Trojan baserunner to advance to third with no one out. A tie game seemed inevitable, as all the Trojans needed was contact. However, Chris Brown pitched magnificently and pulled the biggest Houdini act of working out of a jam that one could witness, as he struck out the next batter, induced a ground ball to Maziar at first for the second out, and punched out the final Trojan to protect a 4-3 win by the Pirates.
Game 2 saw Kevin Moore get the start for the Pirates against Snead State. Shaky in the first, Moore surrendered 1 run before settling in and striking out the side in the second.
Meanwhile, the Pirates battled right back in the bottom of the first scoring 2 runs, as Drew Dunagan, who played a Cunningham-esque centerfield himself, led the inning off with a walk. Another single by Holland, put runners at the corner. Jared Martin then delivered a sac fly to tie the game at 1 apiece. After a Cam Sperry walk, the Pirates pulled a first and third double steal, as Holland crossed homeplate to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Fireballing, Matty Evenson tossed a perfect, dominating 1-2-3 third inning. Unfortunately, Mitch Shelby ran into a bit of trouble in the fourth and surrendered 2 runs and the lead. Down 3-2, Payne Kosobucki and Danny Lynn tossed scoreless innings in the 5th and 6th to give the Pirate offense a chance to come back.
And come back they did, as in the 6th inning, as Holland led off with a single and advanced to second on Frank “The Tank” Wager’s sac bunt. A hit by pitch to Tim Kennedy and an infield single by Tripp Adams loaded the bases with one out. Reid Michalek had one of the finest at bats of the day fouling off pitch after pitch, and finally delivered the game tying sacrifice fly to score Holland.
The very next pitch, Kennedy stole third base and the catchers throw sailed into left field allowing Small Time Timmy Jim to score the go ahead run to give CVCC a 4-3 lead headed into the final frame.
Cody Sheffield came on and kept the inning boring, setting down the Parsons of Snead in order to preserve the victory and another sweep on the Plains.
The Pirates will head into next week preparing for their annual battle at Columbus State University next Friday at 6:00 pm eastern. Stay tuned for details of this game early next week.