Brandon Collins watched the ace from the dugout as Friday night's game unfolded.
He followed the pitching tendencies of Faulkner right-hander Corey Black. He listened when teammates offered each other tips on how to approach him. And when the USC Beaufort senior stepped in to pinch hit in the eighth, he tried to relax.
Collins tripled down the left field line to drive in the tying run, scored the go-ahead run two batters later and drove in two more runs the following inning to help the Sand Sharks eliminate top-seeded Faulkner (Ala.) and advance in the NAIA baseball regional at Richard Gray Sports Complex.
USCB plays Union (Tenn.) at noon today for the right to face St. Thomas in the championship matchup. The USCB-Union winner would have to defeat St. Thomas twice to win the regional.
Facing elimiation after an extra-inning loss to St. Thomas on Thursday, USCB defeated Asbury (Ky.) 9-4 on Friday morning before knocking out Faulkner, which was ranked No. 5 in the country when it arrived in Hardeeville.
Collins and the Sand Sharks heard all the comments, knew Black threw low 90s and was expected to be drafted in the early rounds, and that Faulkner boasted the lofty ranking. But after six consecutive scoreless innnigs, Black cracked.
"You don't have to look at numbers to know what they do," said USCB starter Miles Galvin, who struck out 11 to improve to 6-0. "You know they can hit the ball, they can run. You've just got to go out there and play your game."
Adam Miller pitched a compelte game against Asbury. Galvin went seven innings before closer Colton Rudd made his first appearance since before the Sun Conference tournament. Rudd struck out the side in each of the final two innings, pitching around a leadoff double in the eighth.
The Sand Sharks feel their bullpen is their strength and that plenty of arms are available as they try to climb back after losing the opening game.
"We've been blessed with an opportunity," Rudd said. "It's going to be difficult. ... We've got our wheels churning. We're ready to go."
Faulkner took a one-run lead after seven innings before USCB broke the game open. Ty Main led off the eighth with a double before Collins' heroics with one out. After Black left, Blake Cilwick delivered the pinch-hit single to score Collins with the go-ahead run.
"I love where we're at right now as a team," Galvin said. "It's excellent. Everybody's on."
Faulkner coach Patrick McCarthy, livid late in the game after confusion with a count led to a Rudd strikeout, was more calm after consoling the Eagles behind the visitors dugout. He praised the Sand Sharks for finding a way to beat his best arm and hold the Eagles' bats down with their third starter.
He said he felt the Sand Sharks played harder late. In the top of the ninth, David O'Neil scored on a passed ball, pinch runner Keenan Ivey scrambled from first to third and Main, who walked on the pitch, raced all the way to second before the Eagles regrouped.
"They grinded it out, took extra bases when they needed to, had really good at-bats against Black, and we got beat," McCarthy said.
USC Beaufort 9, Asbury (Ky.) 4
Asbury 101 000 020 -- 4 9 0
USCB 301 013 01x -- 9 9 3
WP: Adam Miller (9-5) 9 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 4 R, 3 ER, 9 K
LP: Brad Williams (2-8) 5 2-3 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 1 K
Top Hitters: Asbury-- Danny Olszowy 2 for 4, 2B, RBI. USCB-- Ty Main 2 for 4, 3 RBIs, HR; RJ Neal 2 for 4, 3 R; Dylan Nasiatka, 1 for 3, HR, 3 RBIs.
USC Beaufort 7, Faulkner (Ala.) 3
USCB 200 000 023 -- 7 12 1
Faulkner 101 000 100 -- 3 8 0
WP: Miles Galvin (6-0) 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 11 K
LP: Corey Black (11-2) 7 1-3 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Top Hitters: USCB-- Brandon Collins 2 for 2, 3B, 3 RBIs; Conald Mansfield 2 for 3, 2 2B, 2 RBIs. Faulkner-- Brook Boudreaux 2 for 3, HR, 2 BB.
St. Thomas (Fla.) 6, Union (Tenn.) 3
Oscar Romero gave St. Thomas (Fla.) the lead with a two-run, pinch-hit single in the fifth inning, and the No. 2 seed Bobcats held on to advance to the championship game.
A day after upsetting top-seeded Faulkner (Ala.), the Bulldogs jumped out to another early lead, scoring on Kody Pinson's RBI fielder's choice in the second and Doug Joyce's RBI groundout in the third.
Nicholas Perez pulled the Bobcats even with a two-run double in the third, and Romero came through with his pinch-hit single up the middle against reliever John Reed (4-4) to give St. Thomas its first lead in the fifth.
Pinson added an RBI single in the top of the sixth to get Union (39-18-1) within 4-3, but Hector Bello dumped a single into shallow right field to score two insurance runs in the sixth.
Emilio Ogando (7-0) allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits over six innings for the win. Ashley Bulluck struck out four in three hitless innings for the save.
-- From wire reports