Greenville, S.C. - Jacob Hoyle homered twice and Tyler White blasted his second career grand slam home run, but it wasn't enough as fourth-seeded The Citadel outlasted top-seeded Western Carolina, 12-11, on Thursday evening in the 2013 Southern Conference Baseball Championship at Fluor Field. Bulldog right fielder Tyler Griffin delivered what proved to be the game-winning run on a three-run homer in the sixth inning as the two squads combined for 23 runs and 25 base hits.
Western Carolina (39-19) is relegated into the loser's bracket where it will meet fifth-seeded Appalachian State at 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon. The Mountaineers eliminated No. 8 seed Samford earlier Thursday afternoon at Furman's Latham Stadium as the game was moved because of Wednesday night's rain out. WCU took 2-of-3 from ASU in Boone to conclude the regular season last weekend.
The Citadel (34-24) moves into the winner's bracket on Saturday and will have to be defeated twice by the winner of the WCU-ASU game to punch a ticket into Sunday's single-elimination championship game.
WCU twice tied Thursday night's game with round-trippers, but was unable to sustain the momentum against the Bulldogs. All nine starting hitters for the Catamounts recorded hits including Hoyle's two homers and four RBI while SoCon Player of the Year, White, also drove in four on his sixth-inning grand slam - his third home run of the tournament and eighth RBI. Cody Jones and Dykota Spiess also drove in runs on singles for the Purple and Gold.
After the teams combined for just one run in the first three innings, they exploded for 20 over the next three frames to bring the crowd to life. Down 3-1 after The Citadel broke into the hit column for the first time in the third inning, Hoyle knotted the game with the first of two long balls in the top of the fifth. With White aboard after a walk, Hoyle belted a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right field to tie the game at three.
The rally was short-lived, though, as The Citadel plated five runs on four hits and took advantage of a WCU error in the bottom of the fifth to reclaim the advantage. Jonathan Stokes delivered the big hit of the inning, belting a three-RBI double to left center with the Bulldogs grabbing an 8-3 lead through five complete.
In the top of the sixth, Western Carolina again mounted a charge as Bradley Strong opened the inning with a double to chase Bulldogs starter, Logan Cribb. The next batter Luke Gragg delivered a single through the right side and Aaron Attaway walked two batters later to load the bases. Following a Julian Ridings RBI walk to cut the deficit to four, White belted a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left center for his second career grand slam home run to tie the game at eight.
WCU managed to pull ahead by a run as the sixth inning continued with Adam Martin doubling down the left field line before rumbling home on a RBI single through the right side by Dykota Spiess to give the designated visiting team the 9-8 lead.
However, the Catamounts were again unable to secure a shutdown inning after tying things as The Citadel had one more big inning. After Joe Jackson's RBI double down the left-field line, Bo Thompson singled to put runners on the corners. That brought up Griffin, who fouled off a pitch before hitting the three-run shot beyond the wall in left-center to make it a 12-9 game.
Combined, the 2-through-5 hitters in The Citadel's lineup combined to go 9-for-16 with 10 runs scored and five driven in. Griffin had four of those RBIs as part of his 2-for-4 day. Thompson was 3-for-5 with three runs scored, and Hughtson Armstrong and Joe Jackson had two hits each. Johnathan Stokes, the Bulldogs' 9-hole hitter, was 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
WCU had one more rally in it, though, as Ridings singled off Bulldog reliever David Rivera before Hoyle blasted his second home run of the game in the top of the eighth. However, The Citadel's defense stepped up to limit the damage. After Martin drew a walk, Bulldog shortstop Stokes made a diving stop on a ground ball up the middle off the bat of Spiess, flipped it behind his back to for the force out to second baseman Mason Davis, who fired to first to complete the double play and end the inning.
Sophomore reliever Tyler Powell made sure the Catamounts were down just one run going into the top of the ninth, striking out four batters in two innings of work out of the bullpen. Yet, WCU was unable to pull off any ninth inning heroics as Bulldog pitching including freshman closer Skylar Hunter sat the Catamounts down in order in the ninth including a strikeout by Hunter who scored his 12th save of the year.
WCU reliever Jon Nadale (0-3) took the loss after allowing two runs and not recording an out in the sixth inning. Starter Jordan Smith held the Bulldogs without a hit through the first three frames, tossing four and two thirds innings with three strikeouts but factored in a no-decision. Senior reliever Hunter Brister returned to the mound for WCU after missing more than a month due to a knee injury, striking out two while Jonathan Waszak made his second appearance of the tourney, fanning one in recording a third of an inning.
First pitch on Friday afternoon is scheduled for 3:00 pm. Coverage on the Catamount Sports Network gets underway at with air time of 2:45 pm.