LYNCHBURG, Va. – Tyler Hoffman gave Bridgewater the lead with a two-run double in the top of the eighth inning and Robert Gallet and Corey Armentrout kept Shenandoah off the board in the final two innings as the Eagles claimed the 2014 Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) baseball championship Sunday with a 6-5 victory over Shenandoah at City Stadium.
The ODAC title is the 14th in program history and the first since the 2010 season.
Bridgewater forced the deciding game with a 5-2 victory earlier Sunday and the title game went down to the final inning.
The Eagles struck first with three runs in the top of the fourth. With one out, Bryan Sanderson and Justin Petock singled before Brendan Howell chased both home with a double, giving Bridgewater a 2-0 lead. Howell scored on a single by Zach Hynes, making the score 3-0.
The Hornets took advantage of a Bridgewater error to start the fifth inning and scored five unearned runs to grab the lead. Joe Bittner reached to start the inning when outfielder Nick Fulk dropped his fly ball while battling the sun for a two-base error. J.J. McDaniel walked and, one out later, he and Bittner pulled off a double steal, putting runners at second and third. Billy Arens plated Bittner with a single to put the Hornets on the board. McDaniel scored on a groundout and then Nolan Overby gave Shenandoah the lead, 4-3, with a towering two-run homer to left. Michael Paul doubled, ending the day for Eagles starter Jordan Showalter, and Dan Powers greeter reliever Robert Gallet with a run-scoring single, giving the Hornets a 5-3 lead.
Bridgewater got a run back in the sixth on a solo homer by Hynes and then put together the winning rally in the eighth against Shenandoah lefty Darrell Thompson, the 2014 ODAC Pitcher of the Year.
With one out in the eighth, Hynes ripped a double down the left field to put the tying run at second base. Bay Liskey walked on a 3-2 pitch before Darren Yoder popped out to right for the second out of the inning. Hoffman fell behind in the count 0-2 before belting a double to the gap in left-center, scoring both Hynes and Liskey to put the Eagles on top 6-5.
Gallet retired the Hornets in order in the eight, striking out the first two batters, and then turned the game over to Armentrout in the ninth.
Armentrout, named the tournament's Most Oustanding Player, pitched four innings in the first game Sunday afternoon to earn his third save of the season. He needed three more outs for a championship.
In the ninth, leadoff batter McDaniel hit a hard grounder up the middle that Armentrout got a glove on. He picked up the loose ball and made a strong throw to first to record the out. Lew Johnson grounded out to second for out No. 2, bringing Arens to the plate. Arens hit a slow roller back to the mound and Armentrout made the throw to first, clinching the 2104 championship for the Eagles.
Hynes led the offense in the title game with a 3-for-4 day at the plate. He scored two runs and knocked in two. Sanderson added two hits to the Eagles nine-hit attack.
Joining Armentrout on the all-tournament team for the Eagles were shortstop Hynes, catcher Hoffman, outfielders Fulk and Ryan Fitzgerald and pitcher Gallet.
With the victory, the Eagles are now 31-12 and more importantly the team claims the conference's automatic bid to the Division III NCAA tournament to be hosted in mid-May by Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga.
Shenandoah is now 31-9 and the Hornets should have a strong shot at an at-large invitation to postseason play.