FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In the first four years of its existence, the University of South Carolina Beaufort baseball team won a total of two games at the Sun Conference tournament.
This year's team already has won three -- and the Sand Sharks are one more win away from claiming their first league tournament title in improbable fashion.
The sixth-seeded Sand Sharks stayed perfect in the tournament Friday, mounting a huge rally in the seventh inning for a 13-7 win over No. 5 seed Southeastern to advance to Saturday's 1 p.m. championship game at City of Palms Park.
USCB (26-21) will need just one win to claim the title, while the winner of Saturday's 10 a.m. game between top-seeded Embry-Riddle and Southeastern will need to beat the Sand Sharks twice. The Sand Sharks can clinch an automatic berth in the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round one of two ways Saturday -- by winning the tournament title or by finishing runner-up to Embry-Riddle, which already has an automatic berth by virtue of its regular-season title.
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For most of the day Friday, it seemed the Sand Sharks would have to work their way through the loser's bracket to get into the championship game. They fell behind the Fire 5-0 thanks to four unearned runs in the second inning, and the offense couldn't solve Southeastern starter Dimitri Nunez, who breezed through the first six innings.
Everything changed in the seventh, though, as USCB sent 17 batters to the plate against Nunez and three relievers, pushing across a school-record 13 runs on 10 hits. Twelve of the 13 runs came with two outs as 11 consecutive USCB batters reached base.
Erik Armstrong drove in three runs in the inning, and Terry McClinton, Ashly Morris and Jon Andrews each had two RBIs. Leadoff man JJ Crespo was 3 for 5 with an RBI, and McClinton, Brandon Joyce and Andrews each had two hits.
The huge inning made Ben Sauls (1-0) the winning pitcher after he struck out three in two scoreless innings of relief. Starter Junior Delatorre allowed five runs -- one earned -- on five hits over five innings.