DANVILLE, Va. – No. 4 seed Winthrop scored five unanswered runs in its final two innings to fend off No. 6 seed Radford, 13-9, in Game 6 of the 2008 Royal Purple Big South Conference Baseball Championship, May 22 at Dan Daniel Memorial Park in Danville, Va. With the victory, Winthrop improves to 26-32 and advances to play No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina Friday at 3:00pm. Radford falls to 24-31 and will face No. 2 seed Liberty in an elimination game Friday morning at 11:00am. The victory was Joe Hudak’s 600th as Winthrop’s head coach.
The game was back-and-forth all night, with the seventh inning being the pivotal point of the ballgame as both teams combined for seven runs. After Winthrop extended its lead to 8-4 in the sixth, Radford scored five runs in the top of the seventh to take its first lead of the game at 9-8. Ben Toth singled, Tyren Rivers walked and Will Naylor loaded the bases with a bunt single. Alex Gregory reached on an error that scored Toth and ended the day for Winthrop starter Hamilton Bennett. New Eagles pitcher Matteo D’Angelo gave up an RBI single to Reggie Keen that cut the lead to 8-6, and then Nate Toth had a bases clearing double that pushed the Highlanders ahead for the first time.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Winthrop scored twice in the bottom of the inning to move back ahead, 10-9. The Eagles loaded the bases and pushed home the tying run when Aaron Bonomi’s single scored Eddie Rohan, who opened the inning with a walk. Tyler McBride gave Winthrop the lead for good with a sacrifice fly that scored Bryn Henderson. Winthrop reliever Josh McDonald replaced D’Angelo in the seventh and limited Radford to four hits and no runs in 2.2 innings to earn his fourth win. Winthrop added three insurance runs in the eighth inning for the final 13-9 margin.
Winthrop scored first with four runs in the second inning. The Eagles loaded the bases on singles by Henderson, Billy Froehlich and Bonomi. Bennett Jordan knocked a one out single through the left side to score Henderson and Froehlich, and a throwing error by Keen allowed Bonomi to score and Jordan to reach second base. Highlanders starter Mark Beppler balked Jordan to third, and Tony Brunetti plated Jordan with a ground out to first base.
Radford got one of the runs back in the top of the third. Nachion Moore tripled to open the inning and scored on Ben Toth’s groundout to third. The Eagles came right back to take a 5-1 lead in the bottom half when Froehlich doubled with two outs and scored on John Murrian’s single to left.
But the Highlanders continued to chip away at the deficit and scored in the next three innings to make it a one-run game. In the top of the fourth, Gregory belted a solo home run over the left field wall for his second home run of the tournament and 14th of the season to make the score 5-2. Then in the fifth, the Highlanders made it 5-3 when Ben Toth reached second base on an infield error and scored on Rivers’ two-out single to center. In the sixth, Gregory doubled to left and was brought home on Keen’s triple down the left field line that moved Radford within one at 5-4.
Winthrop halted Radford’s comeback in the bottom of the sixth when Murrian knocked a two-run home run off Beppler to push the Eagles’ lead to 7-4. Froehlich led off the inning with a walk and Murrian hit Beppler’s first pitch out of the park for his sixth homer of the season. Bonomi followed Murrian and reached base on an error by Rivers, was sacrificed to second by Jordan, and scored on Brunetti’s double down the right field line to make the score 8-4 and chase Beppler.
Murrian led Winthrop’s 15-hit attack with a 4-for-5 night and five RBI. Bonomi had three hits while Froehlich and Brunetti each had two. Brunetti, Bonomi and Jordan also had two RBI each. Keen finished 4-for-4 at the plate with two RBI for Radford, while Nate Toth knocked in a team-high three runs. Gregory and Moore each had two of the Highlanders’ 13 hits on the night. Radford reliever Steve Pysh suffered the loss after allowing the go-ahead run in just 0.2 innings of work.
It was the first meeting between Winthrop and Radford in the Big South baseball tournament since 2000 and the fifth overall, with Winthrop now 3-2 against the Highlanders in the postseason.
Winthrop Head Coach Joe Hudak
“I’ve got to give Radford a lot of credit. They are better club than a lot of people give them credit for. I was very pleased of how we came back after that big inning (in the seventh). We’ve been swinging the bats very well, so they got five runs, but we came right back. We are playing with a lot of confidence right now and this was a big win for us. Hamilton (Bennett) certainly pitched well enough for us to get a win and Josh (McDonald) came in and threw well.”
Radford Head Coach Joe Raccuia
“We were terrible in every facet of the game. We deserved to lose the baseball game.”