USC Beaufort

Late lead vanishes for Sand Sharks in conference tournament opener

The USC Beaufort baseball team was sitting right where it wanted. The Sand Sharks had the No. 1 team in the nation in a three-run hole going to the eighth inning. They were six outs away from putting themselves in a great position to make a run at an improbable berth in the NAIA World Series Opening Round.

Two innings and 11 runs later, USCB is on the brink of seeing its season end, as Embry-Riddle rallied for a 13-5 victory over the Sand Sharks in the first round of the Sun Conference Baseball Tournament at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.

Gabe Torres put the Sand Sharks (27-20) ahead 2-0 with a two-run single in the first, and USCB opened it up in the fifth, when five consecutive singles and a sacrifice fly led to three runs and a 5-1 lead.

But the Eagles (44-9) chased starter Dexter Price in the seventh, and USCB's bullpen couldn't hold the lead.

Left-hander Michael Heesch -- usually the No. 3 starter -- worked out of a jam in the seventh with Embry-Riddle scoring only one run to cut it to 5-2, but the Eagles hit him hard in the six-run eighth and banged around Alex Graham and Andres Castro for five more runs in the ninth.

Price allowed two runs -- one earned -- on nine hits over six-plus innings. He struck out two and walked three.

Even with a win Tuesday, the Sand Sharks would have needed four more in the next three days to win the title, but they would have assumed the No. 1 seed's easier path.

Now they're sent to the loser's bracket to face the St. Thomas-Webber International loser in an elimination game at 11 a.m. today, needing three wins just to get to the championship game, and they've already depleted their pitching staff.

Left-hander Adam Miller is the only regular weekend starter left at coach Rick Sofield's disposal, and he will get the start today.

Embry-Riddle 000 010 165 -- 13 19 0

USC Beaufort 200 030 000 -- 5 8 2

WP: Robbie Ratliff (5-0) 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

LP: Michael Heesch (5-5) 1 2-3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.

Top hitters: Embry-Riddle -- Aaron Glaum 1 for 4, 3 runs; Greg Smith 3 for 4, 3 runs; Steve Sabins 3 for 6, 2 RBIs; Chris Page 2 for 6, 2 2B, 4 RBIs; Ben Kline 4 for 5, 2B, HR, 4 RBIs, 2 runs; Keaton Stroud 2 for 6, 2B; Ian MacGeorge 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBIs. USCB -- Spencer Jackson 1 for 3, RBI, 2 runs; David O'Neil 2 for 4, RBI; Ty Main 2 for 2; Gabe Torres 1 for 4, 2 RBIs.

SUN CONFERENCE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT

At City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Fla.; Double-elimination

Tuesday's games

Embry-Riddle 13, USC Beaufort 5

St. Thomas 4, Webber International 1

Southeastern 6, SCAD Savannah 3

Today's games

USC Beaufort vs. Webber International, 11 a.m.

Embry-Riddle vs. SCAD Savannah, 3 p.m.

St. Thomas vs. Southeastern, 7 p.m.

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