Things were getting dicey for Colton Rudd.
The USC Beaufort left-hander took the mound for the final inning Saturday afternoon at Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville trying to put the finishing touches on a 3-2 victory. And after silencing Webber International through his first two frames of relief, the ninth inning seemed like a mere formality before the Warriors would succumb to defeat.
But that didn't happen. Instead, the Warriors promptly loaded the bases with only one out as Shane McIntyre -- one of Webber's top hitters -- approached the plate.
"It got a little -- I don't know what to say there -- it got a little tense in the ninth inning," Rudd later said. "It was kind of scary."
Things got even more nerve-wracking from there for Rudd, as the ball off McIntyre's bat appeared ticketed for center field. But what followed was one of the Sand Sharks' highlights of the year.
Second baseman Gabe Torres dove on top of the ball before flinging it to shortstop Weldon Smith from his stomach. Smith promptly barehanded the ball for the first out, spun around the bag and fired to first, nailing McIntyre and sending USC Beaufort to victory. The play helped begin a doubleheader sweep of the Warriors, as the Sand Sharks moved into a first-play tie atop the Sun Conference standings thanks to 3-2 and 6-3 victories.
"I still can't believe it," Rudd said, shaking his head. "I'm still speechless."
The play helped cap three scoreless innings of relief for Rudd, who picked up his team-leading fourth save for USC Beaufort (34-14, 20-7). The bullpen was the story of the day for the Sand Sharks, as four relievers combined for six scoreless innings in the two-game sweep. After Rudd silenced the Warriors (24-23, 14-12) in game one, relievers Alex Graham, Junior Delatorre and Matt Barger did the same in the finale.
The quartet limited Webber to just four hits and four walks to go along with five strikeouts in their shutout performance.
"It's always nice when you can take that starter out of the game and have complete confidence in the guys coming in behind you," coach Bryan Lewallyn said. "We were trying to get everybody a little bit of work to gear up for the tournament and that sort of thing. It's really nice to have those guys that can come in there and get the job done."
The Sand Sharks needed a two-out rally to break a 2-all tie with the Warriors in the sixth inning of game one, as Keifer Youmans tallied an infield single before coming home on Dom Hayes' base hit to right.
USC Beaufort didn't waste any time in the finale however, however, as it broke out for four runs through the first two innings before en route to the victory.
Dylan Nasiatka and Conald Mansfield got the Sand Sharks on the board with an RBI double and single, respectively, before David O'Neil doubled the lead with a two-run single to left. The Warriors pulled within one on a two-run shot by Austin AuBuchon in the sixth, but USC Beaufort got the runs back on Keenan Ivey's solo homer in the seventh and Youmans' two-out double an inning later.
But it was the relief corps that still stole the show. And it was especially sweet for Rudd and Barger, both fourth-year players, whose saves ended Senior Day in style.
"Really excited for these guys," Lewallyn said. "We've got a big senior class. To be able to do that on Senior Day, it's special."
Webber 001 010 000 -- 2 9 0
USCB 010 011 00X -- 3 11 0
WP: Adam Miller (8-4) 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
LP: Jesse Wiggington (4-2) 8 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
Top hitters: Webber -- Shane McIntyre 2 for 5, RBI; Ryan Regidor 3 for 4. USCB -- Dom Hayes 3 for 3, R, 2 RBI; R.J. Neal 1 for 4, RBI; Keifer Youmans 2 for 4, R.
Webber 001 002 000 -- 3 6 1
USCB 220 000 11X -- 6 9 1
WP: Miles Galvin (5-0) 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.
LP: Chaz Abeln (2-3) 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.
Top hitters: Webber -- Michael Moulton 2 for 4; Austin AuBuchon 1 for 3, HR, R, 2 RBI. USCB -- David O'Neil 2 for 3, R, 2 RBI; Kenan Ivey 2 for 4, HR, RBI; Dylan Nasiatka 1 for 3, R, RBI.