Wesleyan Baseball Falls Just Short With Strong Postseason Run

courtesy of Tim Litchfield, photospecialties
courtesy of Tim Litchfield, photospecialties

LAGRANGE, Ga. - The 5th seeded NC Wesleyan College Baseball team had their season come to a sudden end on Saturday with their second straight loss in the USA South Conference Baseball Tournament. The 6th seeded Greensboro College Pride outlasted the Bishops en route to a 10-2 win in the final Loser's Bracket game of the weekend.

The win sends Greensboro to the Championship game vs. 3rd seed LaGrange College on Sunday at Noon. Greensboro needs to beat LaGrange twice to win the tournament.

The Bishops finish their season 24-16 overall and a third place finish in the Conference Tournament while Greensboro improves to 22-17 with their 4th straight consolation win.

Greensboro got out to a fast start scoring 4 runs in the first inning on 2 two-out two-run singles that just squeaked through the middle infield off senior starter J.D. Makauskas (2-4) Wesleyan would then get two of those back in the 4th inning on freshman Andrew Nichols' own two-out two-run single to make it 4-2. 

Unfortunately, Wesleyan would not be able to push any more runs across adding a few insurance runs in the 8th and 9th innings off sophomore reliever Kevin Williams, who had kept the Bishops in the game for an impressive 7 and 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Williams allowed only two runs over 7 innings before tiring in the 9th when the Pride scraped across a few more. Williams struck out nine on 3 walks and allowed 7 hits while junior reliever Noah Shrock came on in the 9th to strike out one.

Freshman DH Jackson Murray led the Bishops with 3 hits while 8 of the 9 Bishops in the starting lineup recorded a hit in the game.

Greensboro starting pitcher Will Hicks impressed Wesleyan first baseman Trey Croom. "He was just competing," he said. "As a senior, he knew it was his last chance to pitch, and he wanted the ball. Very few conference pitchers possess the grit to pitch like that in consecutive days. Croom mentioned that TJ Viracola accomplished a similar feat for Averett in 2016, when he threw over 250 pitches in two starts against the Bishops in a single weekend.
First-year Coach Greg Clifton pointed out that Greensboro advanced to the finals despite losing its opening game in the tourney. "We ran into a hot hot team in Greensboro," he said. Clifton acknowledged the challenge in winning the double-elimination tournament. He said it tests a team's pitching depth. "You need quality pitching for four days," he said. He added that while his team "swung the bat great all year," the offense slumped a bit toward the end.
Croom offered a similar assessment. "The conference tourney either comes down to the team with the best pitching or the one that's swinging the hottest bats," said Croom, a four-year starter for the Bishops. "We had good pitching depth but not as many lights-out arms as LaGrange and the other top teams. We usually swing it the best during the beginning of the season and have to scratch and claw to put up runs in the tournament."
"I was happy but definitely not satisfied with our season," Clifton said. He noted that the Bishops lost seven of their last 10, including two by walk-off hits in a span of 17 days. "That was hard to take," he said. "I don't think we ever recovered."
While lamenting the loss of Croom and ten other seniors, "a very close-knit group that provided leadership"––the coach is optimistic about next season. "Recruiting's gone well," he said. "You can't have enough arms at this level."
*Quotes are on behalf of Dr. William Grattan, English Professor and Editor of the Decree, NCWC's newspaper.