May 8, 2011

Baseball Falls in Extra Innings to Elon on Senior Day

Charleston, S.C. – The Citadel Baseball team was unable to hold a 5-3 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth on Sunday afternoon at Riley Park as Elon battled back to sweep the three-game series in an 8-6 victory in 12 innings.

The Bulldogs were swept at home for the first time ever by Elon (33-18, 21-6) as the two teams went into extra innings for the fourth time in the past two seasons. It is the third time The Citadel (20-27, 8-16) has been swept this season in conference and the second time at home. The 16 league losses are tied for the most in school history, set in the 2005 season.

With a series victory over Georgia Southern, Wofford has moved into a tie with the Bulldogs for eighth place, while Western Carolina sits just a half game behind The Citadel with a conference game against Appalachian State still to go on Monday. The Bulldogs' SoCon record of 6-9 in 2011 is the first time The Citadel has finished with a losing conference record at home since they have moved to Riley Park in 1997.

After holding a 5-3 lead and getting the first two outs of the ninth inning, the Bulldogs ran into trouble when Niko Fraser singled to right past the glove of first baseman Justin Mackert (Cleveland, Ohio) off Bulldog starter Austin Pritcher (Charleston, S.C.). Jake Luce then singled to put two runners aboard and was replaced by pinch runner Eric Serra. A base hit by Sebastian Gomez to center would then plate Fraser and Serra came into score all the way from first when William Ladd's (Winnsboro, S.C.) throw went off course and Drew DeKerlegand (Pearland, Texas) was unable to corral the ball.

New pitcher Jeremy Long (Clover, S.C.) surrendered a base hit to Neal Pritchard up the middle to score Gomez, who moved all the way to third on the error to give Elon a 6-5 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth. Down to their final out, Brad Felder (Bowman, S.C.) lined his sixth homer of the season and 18th of his career off the left field foul pole against Elon closer Mitch Conner to knot the game at 6-6.

The Bulldogs would threaten with runners on second and third in the bottom of the 10th, but Conner struck out Legare Jones (Columbia, S.C.) to end the threat. In the 12th inning, Alex Swim reached on a high chopper over the head of Long.  Pinch hitter Seth Canipe then reached on a fielder's choice when DeKerlegand was unable to get the lead runner at second and Garrett Koster was then hit by Long to load the bases. New reliever TJ Clarkson (Coral Springs, Fla.) walked Ben Scott on four pitches to score Swim and a sac fly to center by Harry Austin plated Canipe to give Elon an 8-6 lead.

Elon reliever Jared Kernodle picked up his first save of the season as he set down the Bulldogs in order in the bottom of the 12th. David Whitehead (5-1) picked up the win after throwing a scoreless 11th inning with a strikeout. Long (4-3) took the loss, allowing three hits, two runs and a walk in 2.2 innings of work.

The Citadel took an early lead in the game for the second day in a row when Mackert doubled in the bottom of the second and scored on a double down the left field line by Grant Richards (Morrisville, N.C.), who was one of eight Bulldog seniors honored before the game.

Elon would take the lead in the top of the third off Pritcher when Scott singled and Fraser reached on a fielder's choice. A double down the left field line by Luce and a two-run single to left by Gomez would put the Phoenix in front, 3-1.

The Bulldogs would tie the game in the bottom of the third off Elon starter Dylan Clark when Josh Pless (Boiling Springs, S.C.) singled and Nick Orvin (Mocks Corner, S.C.) walked to put two aboard. After a throwing error by catcher Ryan Kinsella put the runners on second and third, Felder grounded out to first as Pless came in to score and Orvin would score on a wild pitch by Clark, who went 5.0 innings, allowing seven hits, four runs, three walks and struck out four.

An RBI single by Mackert would score Felder from second in the bottom of the fifth to give the Bulldogs the lead and Richards extended it in the sixth when he hit his first homer of the season and second of his career off the top of the wall in left field on a solo shot to make it 5-3.

Pritcher did not receive a decision after hurling a career-high 8.2 innings, allowing 10 hits, six runs (five earned), one walk and struck out four. Richards and Felder each went 2-for-5 with two RBI to lead the Bulldogs on offense. Ladd reached base for the 22nd consecutive game while Felder extended his hitting-streak to 17 games and the Bulldogs tallied double-digit hits for the 13th time in their last 17 games. Gomez went 3-for-6 with two RBI and a run scored to lead Elon.

"Pritcher exceeded expectations for us and got stronger as the game went on after taking ill on Saturday," said head coach Fred Jordan. "Elon is a very good team right now. They are getting timely hits, getting the leadoff walk and really playing the game smart. Our guys really gave it everything they had all weekend and especially today and we just weren't fortunate enough to come out on top."

The Citadel begins a stretch where eight of their final nine games of the season are on the road beginning Tuesday as the Bulldogs trek across town to face rival College of Charleston at 6 p.m. at Patriots Point in a non-conference matchup. The game can be heard live with play-by-play announcer Darren Goldwater on Sports Radio 1450 AM in Charleston and on all new CitadelSports.com. Live stats will also be available along with recap and box score following the game.

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