Ninth-inning sacrifice fly the difference in 5-4 loss to Erskine

Box Score

BREVARD, N.C. – Brevard fell just short against the Southeast Region’s seventh-ranked team on Wednesday afternoon at Gil Coan Field, suffering a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Erskine in a tense affair that was in doubt until the final pitch.

Trailing by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Tornados (12-24) faced submarine-throwing right-hander Joe Johnson fresh out of the Erskine (26-10) bullpen. With Johnson’s offerings tailing in to left-handed batters, leadoff hitter Blaine Durham was plunked by a 2-1 pitch and promptly gave way to pinch runner Caleb Jones.

Jones was advanced to second on a Brennan Allen sacrifice bunt and moved to third because of a gutsy baserunning decision, narrowly avoiding Hunter Donaldson’s ground ball to the third baseman to move within 90 feet of scoring the tying run.

With two away, Josh Hall worked the count to 3-1 before swinging through a Johnson changeup. Johnson then froze Hall by painting the outside corner, preserving the tenuous advantage and earning his second save of the season.

Johnson was in position to collect the save after a bang-bang play at the plate in the top half of the frame that gave the Flying Fleet their first lead since the second inning. With one out and runners on second and third, catcher Destin Nichols lifted a fly ball deep down the right field line. Brennan Allen camped under the ball, made the catch, and fired home as Sam Cothran broke from third.

Allen’s throw came in to catcher Brayden Morris on one hop, who then swiped back and to his left as Cothran attempted to slide to the outside corner of the plate. Cothran was ruled safe, causing a spirited challenge by and the eventual ejection of head coach Matt McCay. Tyler Luneke escaped further damage by inducing a groundout to Pat Quinn at shortstop to end the inning.

Brevard had surged ahead with a three-run second inning highlighted by Hunter Donaldson’s team-leading fifth home run of the season that snuck over the fence just below the scoreboard in right field. Josh Hall was hit by the next pitch before earning his 17th stolen base of the season, tied for third in the South Atlantic Conference, and advancing to third on a throwing error in a single play. Schuyler Martire’s perfectly-executed squeeze play brought home the third run of the inning.

After Erskine rallied to tie the score with a pair of runs in the third, Allen returned the lead to the Tornados in the fourth with his first home run of the season. The solo shot to left field gave Brevard a 4-3 advantage, which they would hold until a Fleet sacrifice fly re-tied the score in the top of the seventh.

Luneke suffered the loss for Brevard after allowing a run on two hits in 1.2 innings of work. Jay Phillips earned a no-decision for his 6.1 innings on the mound, giving up four runs on nine hits. Erskine’s Zack Bowers got the win, allowing just one baserunner on a throwing error and notching two strikeouts during the seventh and eighth innings.

Brevard will continue a string of five consecutive games against regionally-ranked opponents with a 3:00 p.m. tilt against defending national runner-up Catawba on Friday afternoon at Gil Coan Field.

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