The USC Beaufort baseball team's bid for a second consecutive trip to the NAIA World Series Opening Round came up short Thursday, when the Sand Sharks were eliminated from the Sun Conference Baseball Tournament with a 6-3 loss to No. 2 seed St. Thomas.
After beating No. 4 seed SCAD Savannah, 2-1, in their first game of the day, the sixth-seeded Sand Sharks were one win away from clinching a spot in the national tournament, and they took an early lead against St. Thomas in the night game.
Two runs scored on Gabe Torres' slow roller down the first-base line to give USCB a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and redshirt freshman Stephen Richards held the lead there until the fifth.
St. Thomas tied it with two unearned runs in the fifth, and Richards' day was done. He allowed two unearned runs on three hits over five innings.
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The Bobcats (25-29) took their first lead in the seventh, scoring twice against left-hander Alex Graham, who took the loss. After Torres' RBI double in the top of the eighth, St. Thomas added some cushion in the bottom on Ruy Rodriguez's two-run single.
The Sand Sharks (29-21) never threatened in the ninth, getting just one runner on base before St. Thomas closer Anthony Perez sealed the win with a strikeout of all-conference first baseman Spencer Jackson.
USCB advanced to the night game in improbable fashion. Seemingly thin on pitchers going into their third game in three days, the Sand Sharks brought left-hander Michael Heesch back on short rest to start against SCAD. Heesch threw five innings, allowing one run on five hits, to keep the Sand Sharks in it.
David O'Neil's RBI double in the seventh gave USCB a 2-1 lead, and Colton Rudd threw four innings of one-hit ball to make it stand up and earn the win.
St. Thomas advances to face Embry-Riddle in the championship game today, and because Embry-Riddle already has clinched an automatic bid to the national tournament, the Bobcats earn the conference's second automatic bid whether they win or lose today.
USCB is not likely to receive consideration for an at-large bid.
USC Beaufort 2, SCAD Savannah 1
USCB 010 000 100 -- 2 7 2
SCAD 000 010 000 -- 1 6 1
WP: Colton Rudd (3-0) 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
LP: Matthew Rogers (3-4) 9 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
Top hitters: USCB -- David O'Neil 2 for 4, 2B, RBI; Gabe Torres 1 for 2, 2B. SCAD -- Hunter Pope 2 for 4; Patrick Braswell 1 for 3, RBI.
St. Thomas 6, USC Beaufort 3
USCB 200 000 010 -- 3 8 3
STU 000 020 22x -- 6 8 1
WP: Manny Perdomo (3-5) 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
LP: Alex Graham (0-1) 1 2-3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
S: Anthony Perez (7) 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
Top hitters: USCB -- David O'Neil 3 for 4; Ty Main 1 for 4, 2B; Gabe Torres 2 for 4, 2B, 3 RBIs. STU -- Oswaldo Troconis 1 for 4, RBI; Michael DeJesus 1 for 4, RBI; Ricky Claudio 2 for 4; Ruy Rodriguez 1 for 2, 2 RBIs.
SUN CONFERENCE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
At City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Fla.; Double-elimination
Embry-Riddle 9, St. Thomas 2
USC Beaufort 2, SCAD Savannah 1
St. Thomas 6, USC Beaufort 3 (USCB eliminated)
Embry-Riddle vs. St. Thomas, 11 a.m.
Embry-Riddle vs. St. Thomas (if necessary), 3 p.m.
Note: St. Thomas must beat Embry-Riddle twice to win the championship