For the second straight day, it was a Southern Division match up in the ACCC Tournament for Chattahoochee Valley with the Pirates facing Faulkner State for the 5th time in less than a week, as CVCC and FSCC wrapped up the regular season the previous Saturday with the final 4 game set of the season heading into post-season play.
In a matter of 1 month, 2 weeks and 24 hours, the Pirates saw themselves looking down the wrong end of an unfortunate injury and illness situation that, no doubt, affected game time strategy for the Pirate coaching staff.
First, CF Brandon Hill was lost for the season in the first week of April during the infamous tarp incident. One week before the tournament, # 3 starter and flame throwing righty, Zach Cable was diagnosed with a torn UCL and would have to undergo Tommy John surgery. And to add illness to injury, the Pirates # 2 starter, Cole Ganopulos, was hospitalized the day the Pirates arrived to Ozark with bleeding ulcers in his stomach, while, part-time starting pitcher and reliever, Parker Boyle was also hospitalized due to dehydration from food poisoning.
That left Coach Adam Thomas with a decision to make on the mound, as he went with starter turned closer, Sawyer Steele to get the Pirates to the semi-finals of the ACCC Tournament. Steele more than did his job, scattering 10 hits as he pitched into the 6th inning, making his first start since February, allowing only 3 earned runs with 4 strikeouts.
In a bit of deja vu, the Chiefs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first on sloppy Pirate defense before the Pirates answered right back to knot the game at 2 apiece.
With the Chiefs and Pirates pitchers unable to put zeroes on the board, the Pirates allowed 2 more unearned runs, one in the 2nd and one in the 3rd, in the early seesaw affair.
However, it appeared as if Chatt Valley had seized control of the game offensively and Steele and the Pirate defense settled in to finally run away with things. With CV taking the 4-3 lead in the second and then FS tying it in the 3rd, the Swashbucklers put up a 3 spot to go ahead 7-4 and appeared as if the Pirates were about to run the Chiefs out of the stadium.
With Chatt collecting 14 hits on the night, all of the damage was done early on in the first 4 innings, as John Devine, Tre Kirklin, Jaylen Smith, Jon Jon Foster, AJ Willoughby and Jack Copley all contributed either multiple hits, multiple RBI’s or multiple runs scored in what looked a typical Pirate offensive runaway.
However, a funny thing happened. The Pirates stopped hitting and the bullpen allowed death by a thousand paper cuts, as Faulkner State methodically scored 1 run an inning for 4 straight innings to take the eventual 8-7 lead.
With few opportunities to score and the inability to keep FSCC off of the board, the game was, for all practical purposes, over when the Chiefs went to their closer, Chase Lambert with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 8th inning.
With their best chance to take back over, Lambert faced 6 hitters and recorded all 5 outs via the strikeout, with the one blemish being a walk to pinch hitter, MJ Rookard.
Lambert closed the door on Faulkner State’s come from behind 8-7 win and put the Pirates in unfamiliar territory – the losers’ bracket of the ACCC Tournament where the would face Shelton State in an elimination game the next day.