Tampa, Fla. – The Claflin University baseball team had a much better showing in its second game of the 2016 NCAA Division II Baseball South Regional but fell short, dropping a 7-1 decision to West Georgia in the elimination game. The Panthers, who were competing in it’s first-ever NCAA Post-Season tournament, finish 2016 with a 24-31 overall record.
West Georgia (40-15) advanced to play the loser of the Tampa/Delta State matchup on Saturday.
Emanuel Mitchell, who closed out his career at Claflin, was credited with the loss. Turner Edwards picked up the win for West Georgia.
“It was a good experience for us and I’m really proud of my guys,” said head coach James Randall. “We played much better today, we [managed] to get back into a rhythm but we just didn’t like we are capable. In addition, we had two injuries in the outfield which definitely hurt us today,” said Randall.
“I think it would be really helpful if our conference can find a way to have our conference tournament closer to the Regionals. Having 18 days off then coming to the Regionals to face this type of competition is really not giving us too much of a chance,” said Randall.
The Panthers came out of the gate much looser with the first half of the game panning out to be a pitcher’s duel. After four complete innings, the team had played to a 0-0.
The game entered a one-hour 27 minute rain delay with West Georgia at bat with two outs in the bottom of the fourth.
The Panthers managed to get the third out after the delay but went three-up-three-down in the top of the fifth.
With two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth, West Georgia’s Caleb Lopez hit a three-run homer to left field to snap the scoring drought and give the Wolverines a 3-0 advantage heading into the sixth.
Jalen Thompson and Johnny Stevenson had back-to-back singles to left field to lead off the Panthers seventh. Claflin placed three runners on base in the inning but could not manage to score, leaving two stranded to end the inning.
With two outs and one on the bottom of the seventh, a dropped fly ball by the Panthers right fielder allowed West Georgia’s fourth run to cross the plate.
After holding Claflin scoreless in the top of the eighth, the Wolverines loaded the bases to start its half of the inning. A pinch hit two RBI single by Tyler Hutch with two outs gave West Georgia the 6-0 advantage. The Wolverines tacked on one additional run in the bottom of the eighth.
Claflin continued to battle in the final inning of the game. After a leadoff strikeout, the Panthers placed its next three batters on base, via a walk, single and hit-by-pitch, to keep their chances alive. Senior Jabari Brown, who stepped into the box with bases loaded and two outs, hit a chipper up the middle for an RBI single to score Stevenson for the Panthers only run of the game.
Courtesy Claflin Sports Information