Four and a half hours after starting their second game on Saturday, Savannah State saw the final out at home plate, punching their ticket to the 2023 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Championship game on Sunday.
In a 13-round elimination bout with the No. 1 seed Albany State, No. 2 Savannah State persevered to the final out, winning narrowly, 9-8, late Saturday night.
They will face No. 3 Spring Hill in the SIAC Championship Game on Sunday, May 7, at 1 p.m.
The Tigers only loss of the tournament was against Spring Hill in the quarterfinals. If they win the first game, they will have to play a second game in the double-elimination tournament since Spring Hill—the reigning SIAC Champions—haven’t lost a game yet.
Following the loss to Spring Hill, Savannah State had to win three straight games to earn a chance at the conference title.
They closed out an incredible three-game win streak against Albany State after beating Kentucky State earlier in the day. The Tigers were on the baseball diamond Saturday for a total of seven hours and 50 minutes.
WIN OR GO HOME
Into the top of the 13th, in a tie game with one out, Savannah State first baseman Andrai Wright was hit with a pitch. He moved to second on a wild pitch, setting up the go-ahead run.
Into the bottom of the 13th inning, Savannah State needed three outs to go to the championship game.
Ahead in the count with two outs, Jared Showalter—in his first relief appearance of the season after starting 13 games for SSU—hit Jordan Tucker, sending the tying run to first base.
But Showalter would redeem himself. On the next at bat, Showalter pitched a mean strikeout, catching Luke Addison swinging to win the game.
Showalter earned his 10th pitching win of the season after 2.0 innings of relief work. He allowed one earned run on one hit with one walk and two strikeouts.
In their fifth game of the tournament, Savannah State relied heavily on their bullpen in Saturday’s semifinal games.
Setting the Tigers up for success against Albany State was relief pitcher Merritt Evans, who had one of his best outings of the season.
Evans finished 3.2 innings with no earned runs on one hit with three strikeouts and no walks. In extra innings, Evans made two huge strikeouts to end the 10th and 11th innings, keeping Albany State from scoring.
Savannah State opened the game behind. Albany State spread out four runs in the first two innings and two more in the fifth and sixth. Into the seventh, they had a commanding 6-1 lead.
Lead-off man Joe Smith came up clutch in the seventh with a two-run single up the middle that scored Gabriel Patxot and Hakem Smith. Later, Wright singled down the left field line, scoring two more for Savannah State.
And suddenly, it was a ballgame. SSU cut Albany State’s lead to one, 6-5, in the late innings.
With the momentum, Savannah State scored two more runs in the top of the eighth to take a 7-6 lead, thanks to a double from Mason Mcleod—who later scored on a wild pitch.
Albany State tied it up in the bottom of the eighth on a wild pitch and the game remained scoreless for three innings until both teams scored a single run in the 12th, forcing the 13th inning.
Savannah State had 14 hits in the win against Albany State.
The Tigers’ bats have been key to their success. Over their five tournament games, they’ve combined for a total of 56 hits, with at least 10 in each game.
On Friday, Savannah State beat Tuskegee in a quarterfinals game to stay alive in the double-elimination tournament.
The Tigers put the SIAC Starting Pitcher of the Year on the mound, Enrico Peele. And Peele delivered. The senior pitched a full 9.0 innings, a rarity in collegiate baseball. He allowed only three earned runs on 10 hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.
Peele earned his 12th pitching win of the season. He leads the conference and all of NCAA Division II in pitching victories this season.
Savannah State spread out five runs over the first six innings. Tuskegee cut into the Tigers’ lead in the sixth with two runs, but SSU tacked on three more in the seventh behind hits from Grubesic and Patxot.
Trailing 2-8, Tuskegee attempted a late rally in the eighth, scoring one run on one hit, but the SSU defense stranded two runners. In the bottom of the ninth, Savannah State again stranded runners as Peele picked up a strikeout and a forced a groundout to keep SSU alive in the tournament.
The win against Tuskegee sent the Tigers to the semifinals where they had to face Kentucky State in an elimination game on Saturday.
Savannah State brought a couple of surprise to the semifinal game, earning a 13-1 rout of Kentucky State in seven innings.
First up, Tyler Green got the start on the mound—the first start of the season for the typical outfielder/designated hitter.
Green, who’s pitched in relief five times this year, did his job. He went a full 7.0 innings, allowing one earned run on eight hits with three walks and two strikeouts, earning his first pitching win of the season.
The middle of the Savannah State order showed up big for the Tigers. Jacob Rushin was 3-for-3 on the day, Desmore Joseph went 2-for-4 with four RBI and at the top of the lineup, Jaden Oden was 3-for-4 with two RBI.