Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Griffith propels Paladins past Gamecocks

No. 9 hitter Sims Griffith smashed a two-run triple to left to snap a seventh-inning tie and Furman went on to a 6-4 win over South Carolina at Founders Park Tuesday. It was the Paladins' first victory in Columbia in 10 years.

The win snapped Furman's four-game losing streak and came on the heels of a weekend sweep at 12th-ranked N.C. State in which the Paladins (4-4) were outscored 28-2.

"It's been a tough four days. You love to learn with wins, but often times you learn more about yourself in some losses," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "We've had one of the hardest schedules in the country, so it's not like you expect to be undefeated at this point. It just felt like we weren't playing very good baseball.
"We really challenged the boys to stay together, believe in themselves, the team and the coaching staff. They come out tonight and just played really good baseball. It felt like we controlled most of that game."

The Paladins scored two runs in the third on a USC error and a sac fly by Jake Crawford. The Gamecocks (6-3) tied the game 2-2 on a Madison Stokes home run in the bottom half of the inning and it stayed that way until the seventh.

Landon Kay led off the seventh with a single and was sacrificed to second. After a walk by Bret Huebner, Griffith drilled a 3-2 pitch over the head of USC leftfielder Carlos Cortes scoring Kay and Huebner. Ben Anderson's sac fly pushed Furman's lead to 5-2.

"That was an unbelievable at-bat (by Griffith). He really squared it up," Harker said. "Sims is a very good defender for us and good at moving runners. He isn't known for burning outfielders, but that's what's beautiful about this game."

With nobody out in the eighth, Cortes hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 5-4. The Gamecocks' next batter, Stokes, got ahead 2-0 when Harker called on Friday ace starter Grant Schuermann to come on in relief. Schuermann fired three strikes to get Stokes out looking, then needed just five pitches to get a pair of pop outs.

Jabari Richards' third hit of the evening was an RBI-double in the top of the ninth that provided some insurance. Schuermann worked around a one-out single in the bottom half to record his first career save.

"It was his bullpen day and (pitching) Coach (Kaleb) Davis just kind of bounced it off me when it was a tie game in the third or fourth," Harker said. "He got three quick outs in the eighth. ... He came back in the dugout and I said, 'how do you feel?' He said 'great,' and I said, 'well we'll push your start back if we have to, go out and win us a ballgame.'
"Man, did he look good. It was fun having him out there in that situation."

After committing an error in each game this season and totaling 12, Furman made no errors Tuesday. The Paladins also got a solid start from sophomore Trent Alley, who matched a career-high long outing of six innings. Alley (1-0) allowed two runs on four hits and four walks. He struck out three.

"We played really good defense and Crawford made some really good plays at third," Harker said. "Alley still hasn't had his stuff that he's shown us in bullpens, but he's putting up big innings for us. He's got a bright future and some confidence going right now. In this game, that's half the battle.
"He comes from a family where his dad played on a national championship football team at Clemson and his brother is currently a coach on Clemson's football team. So for him to do that against the Gamecocks, I know that was a special night for him and his family."

Furman returns home for a weekend series against Central Connecticut State. Game one is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m.

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