BURLINGTON, NC - The Belmont Abbey Crusaders scored a pair of runs in the eleventh inning to defeat the Erskine College Flying Fleet by a 4-3 score at the Conference Carolinas Baseball Championships in Burlington last night.
Tyler Byrnes took the hill in the contest, attempting to eliminate Erskine for a second straight year. Erskine would counter with right hander Josh Alley, trying to avenge a loss to the Crusaders at Abbey Yard earlier in the month.
Byrnes, the senior from Charlotte tossed a scoreless first inning, and got some early help from his offense. Nick Nunziato would score Kayden Krause on a sacrifice fly, followed by a Thomas Yoder single to right that scored Colin Rosenbaum.
The early Crusaders rally would prompt Erskine Coach Kevin Nichols to quickly go to his bullpen. Conference Carolinas Pitcher of the Year Joe Johnson would be called on to relieve Josh Alley.
Johnson would immediately hand cuff the Crusaders offense, allowing five hits in 9+ innings of work. The effort would be a continuation of Johnson's mastery over the Crusaders and offer Erskine time to even the score.
Erskine would score an unearned run in the second inning, followed by a second run in the third frame. Chris Rave lined a single to left field, scoring AJ Fabrizio to knot the game at 2-2.
That is all the offense that Erskine could muster against Byrnes. On the evening, Byrnes threw six innings, allowing one earned run, while striking out three.
The game would become a duel of bullpen aces for each club. Johnson would continue his dominance into the late innings, as Kyle Halbohn would come on to match zeroes with the Erskine right hander. Both clubs would be unable to break the tie through ten innings, as both Halbohn and Johnson continued to shackle opposing hitters.
Erskine would finally breakthrough in the top of the eleventh inning, as Destin Nichols elevated a Halbohn offering over the wall in left field to give Erskine its first lead of the evening at 3-2.
Johnson would return to the mound for Erskine, poised to send the Flying Fleet to Championship Sunday.
However, Colin Rosenbaum would lead off the eleventh inning with a deep fly ball to left center. Erskine left fielder Sam Cothran would pursue the baseball to the warning track, laying out to snare the baseball. As Cothran collided with the wall the ball was jarred free allowing Rosenbaum to ease into third with a triple.
With the Erskine infield drawn in, Weston Clarke would place a single through the right side of the infield to tie the game at 3-3.
Nick Nunziato would be hit by a pitch on an attempted sacrifice bunt. The hit by pitch would prompt Erskine to relieve Johnson, who would be saddled with the loss, moving his record to 8-5.
Thomas Yoder would lay down a sacrifice bunt to the left side of the infield, advancing Clarke and Nunziato. On the throw to first, Chaz Davey missed his intended target at first base throwing the ball into the Erskine bullpen. Weston Clarke would race home for the deciding run, to the delight of the fans as well as the elated Crusaders, who celebrated their entry to the final day of the tournament.
The win for Belmont Abbey moves their record to 36-12-1 as Kyle Halbohn picked up his fourth win of the season. The senior from Pawley's Island, SC, tossed the final five frames, allowing the lone run while striking out three.
Colin Rosenbaum was 4 for 5 on the day, including the eleventh inning extra base hit. The sophomore shortstop now owns a .429 tournament average, going 6 for 14 in the first three games.
The Crusaders will now face the Mount Olive Trojans at 1pm tomorrow, as Pfeiffer defeated UMO in the Saturday nightcap. The winner of the 1pm contest will face Pfeiffer at 4pm to determine the Conference Carolinas Baseball Champion. The Conference Carolinas Ustream Channel will broadcast the games on Sunday. Stay tuned to www.abbeyathletics.com for continued updates on the Crusaders run to the championship.