HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- The road to Idaho got a little longer for the USC Beaufort baseball team Thursday night, as the fifth-seeded Sand Sharks were denied in their latest upset bid, falling 7-5 to No. 1 seed Northwood (Texas) in their second game of the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round.
The Sand Sharks drop into the loser's bracket and will play an elimination game at 5:30 p.m. Friday against the Oklahoma Baptist-Central Methodist (Mo.) winner from earlier in the day. All Friday's games have been moved up with bad weather expected in the Hattiesburg area.
After knocking off No. 4 seed Central Methodist 5-2 in the first game Thursday, the Sand Sharks' chances of an even bigger upset looked good when they grabbed an early lead over the Knights with a big third inning. USCB (27-24) pushed across three runs in the frame to take a 3-1 lead, but an inning-ending double play thwarted the rally and USCB never regained the momentum.
The Knights (41-11) answered with a run in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit in half, then scored three in the fourth and one in the fifth to take a 6-3 advantage. Ryan Doeppel's RBI single in the sixth pulled USCB within 6-4, but Isaac Maturino's second RBI double of the day pushed it to 7-4 in the seventh.
The Sand Sharks loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, and pinch hitter Jon Andrews was hit by a pitch to force home one run, but Northwood closer Colton Reavis came on to get out of the jam and retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.
Doeppel went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored, JJ Crespo was 2 for 5 with an RBI and scored a run and Brandon Joyce and Ashly Morris each went 2 for 4 and scored a run for USCB.
Northwood starter Cody Faulkner (6-2) allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits over 5 2-3 innings to pick up the win, and USCB starter Hunter Englehart (4-5) took the loss, allowing six runs on nine hits over five innings.
In the win over Central Methodist, Erik Armstrong went 3 for 3 with two RBIs, and Ryan Walker and Morris each drove in a run. USCB handed Eagles ace Drew Greiwe (9-1) his first loss.
USCB starter Miles Galvin pitched well, allowing two runs on three hits over 5 2-3 innings, but he left with the Sand Sharks trailing 2-1. Andrew Barrineau (6-1) retired all seven batters he faced to earn the win, and Kyle McCullough pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth for his fourth save.
The Sand Sharks now will have to win four consecutive games to advance to the Avista-NAIA World Series. USCB lost its first game in the Opening Round last year before winning five straight to claim the championship.