BALTIMORE, Md. – Franklin & Marshall overcame a two-run deficit in the top of the ninth and outlasted Gettysburg 5-4 in a dramatic 11-inning contest on Saturday in the winner's bracket of the Centennial Conference (CC) Baseball Tournament.
With the win, F&M (22-17) advances to tomorrow's championship round and sits in the driver's seat, as top-seeded Johns Hopkins, a 9-8 winner over Gettysburg in Saturday afternoon's elimination game, will need to defeat the Diplomats twice to capture the CC crown.
Trailing 3-1 heading into the top of the ninth, the Diplomats put together a rally with their backs against the wall. Rob Anderson and Aaron Gillette notched back-to-back singles to lead off the frame, before Avery Attinson laid down a sacrifice bunt that trickled slowly down the third base line and nearly turned into an infield single, but effectively moved Anderson and Gillette into scoring position.
Brian Erb then came through with an RBI single to right that scored Anderson to pull the Diplomats within 3-2, and Alex Vescera followed with a clutch two-RBI single that took a high hop over Gettysburg third baseman Nate Simon and bounced into left field, giving F&M a 4-3 edge entering the bottom of the ninth.
Gettysburg answered in a thrilling bottom half of the frame to knot the score at 4-4 and send the contest into extra innings. With two outs and runners on first and second, Tommy LeNoir registered an RBI single to left center that allowed Cory Karagjozi to touch home for the tying score.
After a scoreless 10th, Vescera again recorded a key hit for F&M as he ripped a one-out single through the left side of the infield in the 11th to put the go-ahead run on the base paths. Matt Mezansky followed Vescera's hit with a hard-fought walk, and Brett Poniros earned a free pass on a hit-by-pitch to load the bags with two outs. The first pitch to Rob Anderson from Bullets' reliever Luke Lawrence was in the dirt and bounced past catcher Cam MacDonald, rolling all the way to the backstop to give Vescera ample time to race home for what would prove to be the winning score.
Vescera (1-0) then closed out the win for F&M in the bottom of the 11th. The Bullets' Al Posch notched a two-out single to keep things alive for Gettysburg, but Vescera polished off his 2 1/3 innings of work by forcing a flyout to center to earn his first career victory on the mound.
Kevin Shields and Gettysburg's Pat Cody blasted RBI doubles into the left-center gap in the first to open up the game's scoring, before the Bullets took a 3-1 advantage in the third on LeNoir's two-RBI double to right center.
Starters Sean Cosgriff and Drew Felsenthal each worked deep into the contest, with Cosgriff lasting eight innings and Felsenthal 8 1/3. Cosgriff surrendered three runs on 10 hits while striking out five and walking none, while Felsenthal allowed four runs on 10 hits with seven strikeouts. Chris Mathewson recorded two outs in the ninth for F&M, before Vescera took over on the mound down the stretch. Lawrence (4-4) took the defeat for Gettysburg in 2/3 innings on the rubber.
The Diplomats received contributions up and down the lineup as eight different players recorded at least a hit in the win. Vescera, Shields, Attinson, and Erb each notched two hits on the day. Vescera tallied two RBIs, while Shields and Erb added RBIs in the triumph.
LeNoir paced Gettysburg at the plate with three hits and a game-high three RBIs, while Posch and Austin Davis posted three hits apiece.
Saturday's victory also marked the 100th career coaching win for head coach Adam Taylor.
The Diplomats will meet either Hopkins or Gettysburg in the championship round tomorrow at 12:00 p.m.