CNU wins USA South title

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BURLINGTON, N.C. -- The second-ranked Christopher Newport Captains (29-6) scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, roaring past #12 Shenandoah University (26-10) in the 2012 USA South Conference Championship today, winning their second straight conference title. CNU won, 7-4, scoring four runs on five hits in the eighth, beating the Hornets for the second straight day with go-ahead runs in the eighth inning.

With runners at the corner and nobody out, senior first baseman Steven Keener stepped up with the Captains trailing, 4-3. Keener smoked a double to right center field, plating both runners and giving the Captains the lead. Designated hitter Christopher McDougal singled up the middle with one out, scoring another, and pinch runner Andy Viands scored the fourth run on a long double to center field by Billy Steel.

CNU trailed the Hornets from the start, when Shenandoah scored two runs in the first and one in the second. The Captains clawed back one run at a time, scoring in the third, fifth and seventh inning to set up the 4-3 deficit in the eighth.

After the big go-ahead inning, CNU called on closer Ryan Fleischmann, who retired the side 1-2-3 to secure his ninth save of the year and the Captains second straight championship.

Starting for CNU was rookie James Walsh, who overcame some early struggles locating to pitch effectively for 5 1/3, giving up three earned runs on seven hits. Junior Richard Lindsay (4-0) held Shenandoah scoreless for 2.2 innings of relief to pick up the win, allowing just one hit and striking out three.

Freshman Adam Emerson started for the Hornets, giving up three earned over 6 1/3 innings, and closer Kyle Scallion (0-2) took the loss with four earned in one inning of work.

Shoemaker was 3-4 in the game, shaking off a rough start to the tournament by kick-starting the eighth and scored the game-tying run. Senior Ben Lenda finished 2-3 in the game, scoring twice with an RBI. He hit a solo home run to lead off the fifth, pulling CNU within one at the time, 3-2.

Lenda was named the USA South Tournament MVP, hitting three homers in four games, hitting .571 (8-14) with four RBI and seven runs scored. Connor Madden, Billy Steel and Matt Verdillo joined him on the All-Tournament squad, each named to their second straight.

CNU wins its fifth USA South Conference Tournament and second straight. The Captains earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, held in May.

2012 USA South Baseball Championship All-Tournament Team
P - Chris Perry, Methodist
P - Matt Verdillo, Chris. Newport
DH - Nick Beall, Shenandoah
OF - Kyle Newcomb, Averett
OF - Pat Laffin, N.C. Wesleyan
OF - Connor Madden, Chris. Newport
1B - Cory Nelson, Shenandoah
2B - Mike Minch, Shenandoah
SS - Billy Steel, Chris. Newport
3B - Jimbo Newcomb, Averett
C - Ben Lenda, Chris. Newport*

*Tournament MVP