ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. - The East Division Champion and 14th ranked Battling Bishop baseball team fell 9-4 to West top seed LaGrange College in the USA South Championship Game on Monday afternoon from Bauer Field after earlier winning game two 7-6 to force the winner-take-all-game.
The Bishops, and head coach Greg Clifton, were led by senior and all-conference first team catcher Brad Pennington as he totaled 3 hits, six RBIs, and a three-run homer in game three during his final home game of his stellar Wesleyan career. Pennington leads the team in hits with 54, average at .355, RBIs at 44, walks with 34, on-base % at .492 and slugging % at .586.
Wesleyan, now 32-8, will next await the NCAA DIII selection show on Sunday, May 23 to see if they will receive an at-large berth into the National Tournament next week. LaGrange finishes the season 24-8 as they have won their 4th straight tournament title.
GAME 2: NCWC 7, LC 6
The Bishops got down early in the first game of the day Monday falling behind 5-1 after two innings as LC tallied their runs off senior starter Kevin Williams. Wesleyan, though would mount a comeback with a five-run 6th inning. However, before that inning, the Bishops score a single run apiece in the first inning on a Pennington RBI single and in the third inning on Zach Lyon's RBI knock.
Pennington, of course, got the scoring started in the 6th inning poking a two-run single to right field with no outs to score Lyon and freshman 3B Tyson Bass. Then, after back to back walks loaded the bases, shortstop Nate Hibbs came up and roped a two-run double to right to give the Bishops the lead at 6-5. Davie Morgan then made it 7-5 with an RBI groundout.
Freshman reliever Cullen Davis (2-0) then relieved Williams in the 5th striking out two batters to escape the jam before throwing a total of 2 and 2/3 innings allowing just one run on 3 hits, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts to get the win. Junior pitcher Drew Tubb then pitched a scoreless 8th before Rookie Pitcher of the Year Danny Thompson closed the game in the ninth by striking out the final two batters of the game for his third save of the season.
GAME 3: LC 9, NCWC 4
In the championship-deciding game, LaGrange built a sizable lead at 7-1, added some insurance and earned a 9-4 win to capture the tournament crown.
The Panthers again scored in the first inning and then added two more in the top of the fourth inning to build a 3-0 lead. LaGrange grabbed its largest advantage with three runs in the top of the seventh inning before N.C. Wesleyan answered with three runs of its own on a three-run monster home run to dead center field from Pennington.
Unfortunately, that would be as close as the Battling Bishops would get as the Panthers closed out the win. LC starter Michael Menheart earned the victory on the mound, going 5.2 innings, allowing one run with five strikeouts while Spencer Douches collected the save.
Bishop freshman starter C.J. DiBenedetto (5-2) threw 4 innings allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits with 2 walks and a strikeout while relievers Zach Woolard, Payne Stolsworth, Chandler Padgett, and Alex Crosby finished out the game combining to allow 6 runs on 6 hits with 8 walks and 2 strikeouts as the Panthers got to the middle relief to put away the game.
Senior outfielder Alec Titmus led the offense with 3 hits and a double while sophomore CF Drifton Padgett and freshman 1B Jackson Hobbs each knocked two hits apiece. Titmus' late-season hot streak improved his average to .340 as he tallied hits in 9 of his final 10 games while Padgett finishes the season on a six-game hit streak and will look to continue that at the NCAA Regionals if selected. Bass also led the team in runs scored with 50 and was 2nd in stolen bases with 15.
Bass, Pennington, Titmus, Padgett, and Thompson were all named to the Conference All-Tournament Team as well.
1B - Trey Pearce, LaGrange
2B - Rhett Hebert, LaGrange
3B - Tyson Bass, N.C. Wesleyan
SS - Cael Chatham, LaGrange
C - Brad Pennington, N.C. Wesleyan
UTIL/DH - E.J. Churchich, LaGrange (MVP)
OF - Jack Layrisson, LaGrange
OF - Drifton Padgett, N.C. Wesleyan
OF - Alec Titmus, N.C. Wesleyan
P - Baley Coleman, LaGrange
P - Danny Thompson, N.C. Wesleyan