Greensboro, N.C. - UNCG scored six times in the bottom of the eighth to rally past The Citadel 7-4 in the regular season finale on Saturday, dropping the Bulldogs to the No. 4 seed in next week's Southern Conference tournament in Greenville.
The Citadel will open the tournament against fifth-seeded Appalachian State on Wednesday at 10 a.m. and are in the bracket with SoCon regular season champion Western Carolina and eighth-seeded Samford, which play at 1:30. The Bulldogs swept the Mountaineers at Riley Park four weeks ago and are 6-3 this season against the teams in their side of the bracket.
College of Charleston moved up to the No. 2 seed after sweeping Georgia Southern at home this weekend and will rematch with the seventh-seeded Eagles in Wednesday's final game at 8:30. Furman, the host school and No. 6 seed, takes on third-seeded Elon at 5 p.m.
The tournament will be held at Fluor Field in Greenville for the second straight season. Visit the SoCon website at www.soconsports.org for ticket information.
The Bulldogs appeared on their way to the second seed after scoring three times in the fifth and adding a run in the seventh to take a 4-0 lead. But two hits and a double play grounder got the Spartans on the board in the seventh and set the stage for their huge eighth-inning rally.
With Kevin Connell on the mound, Nin Marrero and Christian Wolfe singled to lead off the frame. TJ Spina followed with a grounder to third, and Bret Hines tagged out Marrero but threw wildly to first to put runners on second and third with one out.
Trevor Edwards, whose walk-off homer on Friday night gave UNCG a stunning 13-11 win in the middle game of the series, was intentionally walked. Austin Livingston was brought in to face right-handed hitting Lloyd Enzor but issued a base on balls to force in the first run of the inning.
Skylar Hunter, who allowed the Edwards' game-winning homer, was brought in to stem the Spartan momentum but could not retire any of the three batters he faced. Eric Kalbfleisch walked to make it 4-3, Cole Harrison gave UNCG the lead when his high chopper went over the head of Hines for two runs and a single by Jake Hall past a draw-in infield made it a 6-4 Spartan lead.
Austin Mason, the usual game three starter for the Bulldogs, was passed over in favor of James Reeves but was called in from the bullpen. However, the freshman righty seemed to experience discomfort on the mound during his warm-up tosses, and David Rivera was brought in.
Jake Hall greeted Rivera with a single to make it 7-4, and Wolfe was walked intentionally before Rivera finally ended the inning by getting Spina to ground out to short. UNCG closer Ryan Clark then made quick work of the Bulldogs, retiring the top of the order 1-2-3 for his second save of the season.
Wolfe finished with three hits and concluded the regular season as the leading hitter in the SoCon with a batting average of .421.
The comeback offset a terrific outing by Reeves, who was making his first start in two months. The sophomore southpaw limited the SoCon's top hitting team to only four hits and no walks while striking out four in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He left with a 3-0 lead after striking out Edwards with a runner at third and one out, and Zach Sherrill wrapped up the frame with a punch out of Enzor to end the inning.
Reeves and UNCG starter Corey Taylor matched zeroes over the first four innings. The Bulldogs wasted a bases loaded, one-out situation in the first and a leadoff double by Tyler Griffin in the fourth before breaking through against Taylor in the fifth.
With one out, Mason Davis and Hughston Armstrong singled and Joe Jackson walked to load the bases with one out. Bo Thompson was hit by a pitch to put The Citadel on the board, and Griffin followed with his second double of the game to plate two more. Taylor recovered to strike out Drew DeKerlegand and Calvin Orth to keep it a three-run game.
Armstrong tripled to start the seventh, his third hit of the game, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jackson that gave him his 62nd RBI of the season and the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead at the stretch.
Griffin joined Armstrong with three hits and has gone 10-for-17 (.588) with two doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI in four games since returning from his foot injury suffered at South Carolina on April 9. Johnathan Stokes singled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to a career-long 10 games.