Joseph Marvin: Assistant Sports Information Director
CARY, N.C. - The Brevard College Tornados Baseball team (2-2) split a four-game series against the William Peace Pacers (2-2) at the USA Baseball National Training Complex to open the 2019 season.
Brevard battled William Peace valiantly on Sunday in the series finale but fell by way of a two-run walk-off home run in the 12th inning that earned WPU a series split. William Peace's Alec Seaton blasted a deep ball to left field that gave the Pacers a 4-2 win in what was a tight pitchers duel for most of the afternoon.
Michael Merryman, a senior RHP from Cary, N.C., got the starting nod in his hometown on Sunday afternoon. Merryman enjoyed the finest outing in his three-year BC career, pitching 6.0 innings of four-hit, one-run ball, striking out seven Pacers.
The Tornados, whose offense has been opportune all weekend, got their first run early thanks to a balk by WPU starting pitcher Brendan Shea. Ryan Roon came across and Beau Shealy moved to second for the Tornados as Brevard established itself with a 1-0 lead. BC stranded Shealy at second, sending the game to the bottom half of the first.
Easter Payton came around the horn for William Peace after he struck out, but reached first on a passed ball. Payton moved up on a groundout and a wild pitch then was singled home by the game's eventual hero Seaton. Merryman limited the damage to just one run, as the first inning came to a close with the score all square at 1-1.
Merryman retired WPU in order for two-straight innings, however, Brevard's bats could not break the tie.
The Tornados found a little offensive groove in the fourth inning, as Johnny Flynn singled home Holden Lanier to push BC up 2-1. Lanier advanced to second on a one-out groundout but didn't get brought home.
From innings five through eight, both sides combined to leave five runners on base, as both pitching staffs dominated. BC RHP Zane Beaver made his collegiate debut, working through innings seven and eight without giving up a run. Brevard entered the final inning looking to shut the door on a one-run lead, 2-1.
The Tornados had a major opportunity to add to their lead in the top of the ninth, as Christian Ezzell reached first on an error, stole second, and reached third on a groundout. However, with two outs Ezzell tried to score on a passed ball and was tagged out at the plate to send the contest into the bottom of the ninth.
William Peace would rise to the occasion in the final inning. Michael Stern started the rally against Beaver for WPU, singling to center to lead off the inning. Jonathan Rhew, Stern's pinch runner, stole second in between of two fly outs. The Tornados were one out away from a series victory, as WPU had a runner on second with two outs.
WPU's Tyler Tilson was intentionally walked, bringing up Nathan Holt. Beaver walked Holt to load the bases, then hit Payton in the following at-bat as a pitch got away from him inside. William Peace had the bases loaded with two outs and the game tied at 2-2.
Head Coach Sean Walsh sent Ben Melton on to pitch for Brevard, and it paid off as Melton forced WPU to hit a shallow fly ball to left that ended the frame. The game was bound for extra innings tied at 2-2.
Brevard threatened in the top half of the 10th inning but left runners on first and second. Melton worked a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom half of the inning to extend the contest to the 11th.
BC's Lanier singled and advanced to second with nobody out in the top of the 11th, however, the Tornados failed to advance him beyond there. The Pacers couldn't mount a rally after a two-out single, and the game went to the 12th inning still deadlocked at 2-2.
Jonte Wilkes came into the game for Brevard late but made waves as he singled to center to kick off the 12th inning. Wilkes was advanced to second on a groundout, but the Tornados left him stranded, giving William Peace a chance to walk-off in the home half of the 12th.
Payton kicked things off with a ringing double to left field. Payton moved to third on a groundout, setting the Pacers in perfect position.
Seaton didn't need a home run to win the game, but he got one as he connected for a two-run shot to left field to lift William Peace over Brevard, 4-2.
The Pacers and Tornados both left their fair share of runners on base in the game, as WPU stranded 11 compared to BC's nine.
Brevard will look to bounce back as it returns home to face local foe Montreat College in its home-opener on Wednesday, February 13. First pitch from Gil Coan Field is slated for 2 p.m.
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