GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – All the pressure is on the top seed in the first round of the conference tournament. Despite being outhit on Friday, April 28, the Gents escaped with the victory.
The Maroon and White trailed 1-0 early and the Pirates put the tying run on base in the ninth, but sophomore Cole Lavergne got the strikeout for his conference-leading eighth save of the season as Centenary (32-7) held on for a 6-4 win against Southwestern (20-20) in the first round of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament at AirHogs Stadium in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Up 5-4 in the top of the eighth, Gents starter Kaleb Kirk allowed a leadoff hit to put the tying run on base. In entered Lavergne, who induced a fly out, popup, and groundout to pitch around the threat.
After Centenary picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with sophomore Andrew Russell's sacrifice fly, Lavergne hit a batter with one out and gave up a two-out single to put the tying runs on base. However, he got three-hit Ben Little to swing at a pitch out of the zone to end the game.
Kirk (9-3) picked up the victory for his second-straight nine-win season. He allowed 10 hits and four runs with six strikeouts in seven innings of work.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Gents used small ball to score a trio of runs. Russell singled through the left side and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Lavergne pushed a bunt in the air to third, but it fell in and he hustled down to first to put runners on the corners with no outs. Sophomore Cameron Guin's squeeze bunt tied the game, before junior Ian Graham singled to put the Gents ahead 2-1.
Still not done, Graham stole second. A strikeout looked as if it would limit the damage for Southwestern, but senior Aaron Quintanilla came through with a two-out single. Graham looked as if he was thrown out at the plate, but obstruction was called on the third baseman to award Graham home plate and give Quintanilla an RBI.
After Southwestern tied the game with two in the top of the third, Centenary came through with two runs in the bottom of the frame. Senior Michael Schimpf walked and scored on junior Chris Zapata's hit to deep center. However, Zapata was thrown out at third trying to stretch out the hit to a triple. Russell followed with a double and scored on Guin's two-out single.
Russell led Centenary from the plate by going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Southwestern used two-out lightning to score a pair in the in the third and one in the fifth. In the third with two outs and no one on, Ethan Hallmark singled, stole second, and scored on a two-out single by Cameron Cooper. After an error allowed the runner to move to second, a single by Little to leftfield tied the game at three.
After Centenary went up 5-3, the Pirates plated one in the fifth. With two outs and the bases empty, Little tripled to left center. Kevin Wallace followed with an RBI single, but Kirk got a flyout to keep the Gents in the lead.
Bryce Sinclair (0-2) took the loss for Southwestern, allowing six hits and five runs in 2.1 innings pitched.
Centenary returns to action tomorrow in the winner's bracket final against third-seeded Trinity. The contest is tentatively scheduled for noon, but follow @gocentenary on Twitter for updates as weather expected in the forecast tomorrow.