Saturday, May 25, 2019

ETSU's late rally eliminates Paladins

Freshman Mason Kenney took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Friday, but ETSU
rallied for a 7-5 win to end Furman's season. Photo courtesy of Furman
One day after wasting a solid effort by a starting pitcher by blowing a fairly comfortable lead, Furman did so again Friday night at the Southern Conference Tournament. Unlike in Thursday's win over Western Carolina, there was no late counterpunch by the Paladins this time.

ETSU scored six runs over the final three innings, including three in the ninth, to knock out Furman by a score of 7-5. A Furman team that struggled with fundamentals quite a bit in 2019 before playing its best baseball down the stretch, had some of those same struggles reappear this week at Fluor Field in seeing its season end at 26-31.

The Paladins held a 5-1 lead through six innings before ETSU (34-20) scored two runs in the seventh and a controversial run in the eighth to cut the lead to 5-4 going to the ninth.

A pair of singles and a hit batter loaded the bases for the Buccaneers with one out for leadoff man Cullen Smith. After falling behind 0-2, Smith hit a groundball to first that looked to give Furman a chance at a game-ending double play. But Jared Mihalik, who's been solid this year after being pressed into duty at first base for the first time, couldn't field it cleanly. The ball trickled into right and a pair of runs scored to give ETSU a 6-5 lead.

The Bucs added an insurance run one batter later. Logan Taplett, who's been spectacular manning the hot corner lately, fielded a grounder and stepped on third for one out. His throw to first to try to complete the double play went low and wide as ETSU pushed the lead to 7-5.

After committing a total of seven errors over 10 games in May to end the regular season, the Paladins had eight in their three games at the SoCon Tournament.

Furman faced ETSU starter Daniel Sweeney, who entered Friday with a record of 6-3 with a 3.21 ERA. He had 70 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 73 innings this season. But against the strikeout-prone Paladins he only had one K in his five innings of work. Furman actually matched its season-low with a total of three whiffs on the night.

The Paladins took a 2-0 lead in the first on Trent Alley's RBI-double - his fourth two-bagger of the tournament - and Dax Roper's RBI-single. Taplett's sac fly in the third pushed the lead to 3-0.

Meanwhile, freshman Mason Kenney was mowing down ETSU. The lone Buc to reach base over the first five innings came on a two-out walk in the third. ETSU broke up the no-hitter when Cade Gilbert led off the sixth with a single. He later scored on a sac fly to cut the lead to 3-1, but Furman answered in the bottom of the sixth on Mihalik's two-run double with two out.

After Kenney had a strikeout to start the seventh, nothing went right for the Paladins the rest of the way. The next three batters reached via a single, a Furman error, and a run-scoring double that ended Kenney's night at a career-high 92 pitches. A wild pitch plated another run in the seventh to cut the lead to 5-3.

In the bottom of the seventh, Furman's Bret Huebner was hit by a pitch leading off the inning. He took second on a wild pitch before taking third on a sac bunt, but was left stranded there.

Then came the eighth, which Smith led off for ETSU. Furman reliever Jordan Beatson jumped ahead of him 0-2 before delivering a pitch right down the middle of the plate. As the pitch was traveling home, Smith stepped out of the box as if he was given timeout. The home plate umpire raised up, but gave no signal. Furman coach Brett Harker vehemently argued for some explanation as to what just happened. After the umpires huddled, it was simply ruled a ball rather than a "no pitch," making it an unbelievably horrible call.

Smith ended up drawing a walk. After Beatson struck out the next two batters, David Beam singled to put Bucs on the corners. Beatson was then called for a balk allowing Smith to come home from third and cut the lead to 5-4.

In the bottom of the ninth, Furman got a pair of baserunners thanks to singles by Banks Griffith with one out and David Webel with two outs. Freshman Jordan Starkes, who entered as a defensive replacement for the hot-hitting Alley when the Paladins had the lead, grounded to short to end the game.

Kenney allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits in a career-long 6 1/3 innings. He had one walk and five strikeouts. Webel was the lone Paladin with more than one hit as he went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Richards' blast lifts Paladins to wild win

Jabari Richards' 31st career home run lifted Furman to a 9-7 win over Western
Carolina at the SoCon Tournament Thursday. Photo courtesy of Furman
In a wild elimination game between Furman and Western Carolina Thursday at the Southern Conference Tournament, the Paladins trailed by one when Jared Mihalik led off the eighth with a single. Attempts to move him into scoring position didn't go so well.

Jabari Richards fouled off a bunt attempt before taking an inside pitch that the Paladins argued hit him. After a video review, the umpires ruled it simply a ball. Richards showed bunt on the next pitch before pulling the bat back for ball two. Richards then showed why when one of the most prolific home run hitters in school history is at the plate, you're always in scoring position.

On the next pitch, Mihalik took off for second as Richards swung away. Rather than hit it where the defender left on the hit-and-run, Richards hit it where the defender never was. His shot zoomed out over the rightfield fence for a two-run home run that gave Furman the lead and the Paladins went on to a 9-7 victory.

"We got the bunt on, then there's all this controversy whether it hits him or not. I look over at (hitting coach Taylor) Harbin, who gives me the hit-and-run. I said, 'let's do it,' and sure enough, the kid puts a huge swing on it," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "You can't stop believing in yourself. You're always one pitch away, one at-bat away, one swing away from changing the game and helping us survive.
"It was a really cool moment for a senior to step up. If Jabari is playing the way Jabari plays, that's just another at-bat. But to pull himself up out of the way he'd been swinging ... when we needed him, he pulled it off."

The win advances fifth-seeded Furman (26-30) to another elimination game on Friday at 7 p.m. against sixth-seeded ETSU.

It was Richards' ninth homer this season and 31st of his career, which is tied for fourth-most in school history with Rock Hurst (1982-85) and Jim Morrill (1995-98). A day after Furman's 11-2 loss to Mercer in the opening round, Harker juggled his lineup and it paid off. After hitting just five home runs over the past 13 games, the Paladins slugged four on Thursday.

David Webel's first collegiate home run was a two-run shot atop the Green Monster that gave Furman a 2-0 lead in the third. An inning later, John Michael Boswell led off with a 12-pitch at-bat that included seven foul balls. That 12th pitch traveled 417 feet worth of fair territory, hitting the building beyond the Green Monster for his first home run since returning to the lineup following a 16-game absence due to injury.

A two-run double by Trent Alley in the fifth and an RBI-double by Banks Griffith in the sixth pushed Furman's lead to 6-0.

"We lived and died by the long ball today and had some big ones," Harker said. "Webel hits the first of his career. That's unbelievable. Bos hits one where the leftfielder doesn't even more."

With David Dunlavey in command on the pitching mound, the Paladins seemingly had everything under control. However in the bottom of the sixth, Dunlavey hit the leadoff man and Luke Robinson followed with an RBI-triple. Dunlavey got two outs sandwiched around a walk and Robinson still on third before each of the next two Catamounts reached on Furman errors. That cut the Paladins lead to 6-3, and chased Dunlavey from the game with a pitch count of 118.

Nik Verbeke came on and got a groundout to escape further damage. Verbeke quickly retired the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh before a four-pitch walk to Robinson ignited what became a stunning four-run inning that gave Western Carolina a 7-6 lead.

After Richards' blast put Furman ahead in the top of the eighth, Furman reliever Rob Hughes retired the first two Catamounts in the bottom half on six pitches. Once again, Robinson tried to start a two-out rally for WCU as he doubled. The Catamounts (21-32) loaded the bases before Webel hauled in a fairly deep drive to centerfield to end the inning.

Logan Taplett's sixth homer of the season provided a big insurance run in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Hughes once again retired the first two batters before a walk and a single brought 2019 SoCon Player of the Year Justice Bigbie to the plate. With Robinson looming on deck, Hughes got Bigbie to ground out to short to end the game. Bigbie, who hit .371 this regular season - including .381 in SoCon play, went 0-for-5 for the first time all year Thursday.

"That's the hardest that the third out has been to get I think in my coaching career," Harker said. "All those late innings, it was so elusive.
"At the end of the day, we're just doing anything we can to play tomorrow and we did just enough."

Despite all the fireworks that happened down the stretch Thursday, a pretty amazing play that took place in the bottom of the fifth could not be forgotten. As seemingly every inning went, there were two outs and nobody on before WCU threatened when Immanuel Wilder reached and took second on a fielding error.

Daylan Nanny followed with a sharp single up the middle that Furman shortstop Bret Huebner made a diving stop of. After the dive, Huebner rolled and made a throw towards home plate as he was falling on his back. The throw was a little up the first base line, but catcher Dax Roper caught it, ran towards the plate, and dove just in time to tag out Wilder trying to score to end the inning.

"It's one of the more incredible plays I've ever seen in person," Harker said. "I don't know if the average fan understands how much savvy it takes to throw that ball. That was pretty special."

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Paladins fall in SoCon Tournament opener

Trent Alley went 3-for-4 in Furman's loss to Mercer.
Photo courtesy of the Southern Conference
After winning its final four Southern Conference series of the regular season, Furman hoped to carry momentum into the SoCon Tournament. But in the fifth-seeded Paladins' tournament opener at Fluor Field Wednesday afternoon, any lingering momentum faded fast.

Furman batters combined for no walks and 10 strikeouts. Furman pitchers combined for nine walks and three strikeouts. And for one stretch in the third inning, Furman's defense had more errors in about 17 minutes than it had in the previous 17 days. It all added up to an 11-2 loss to fourth-seeded Mercer.

The Paladins (25-30) will face No. 8 seed Western Carolina in an elimination game Thursday at 9 a.m. Furman avoided trying to stay alive against top-seeded Samford as the Bulldogs rallied in Wednesday's opening game. The Catamounts led 4-0 with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth before Samford scored a pair of runs that inning, added two more runs in the ninth, then got a walkoff home run to start the bottom of the 10th.

Furman jumped out on top in the first inning Wednesday. With two out, Dax Roper singled and came around to score when Trent Alley hit a rocket off the left-centerfield wall for a double.

Mercer (30-26) answered with single runs in the first and second before dealing Furman a back-breaking third inning. The inning started with the first two Bears reaching on groundball errors. After a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk, the Paladins committed their third error of the inning on a dropped pop up in foul territory.

Furman starter John Michael Bertrand struck out the next batter and had a chance to get out of the mess, but his 3-2 pitch to Jordan Ammons missed for ball four to force in a run. Mercer No. 8 hitter Bill Knight followed with a grand slam home run into the Green Monster seats to make it 7-1.

Furman got a run back in the fourth on Logan Taplett's RBI-single, but the Bears piled on with single runs in the fourth and fifth and two more in the sixth to put the game out of reach.

The error-prone third inning Wednesday came after the Paladins combined for just two errors over the final seven games of the regular season. The nine walks issued by Furman matched a season-high last done on April 26. The 10 strikeouts at the plate marked the 22nd game this season in which the Paladins had double-digit whiffs, but only the third time in the past 13 games.

Alley went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, while Taplett and Bret Huebner each went 2-for-4 to lead Furman.

Knight finished with two hits and five RBIs to lead the Bears. Alex Crotty had two hits and three RBIs and Collin Price had two hits and two RBIs also for Mercer..

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Jones helps Paladins top Bears, earn No. 5 seed

Furman's Rutty Jones made his first career start a memorable
one against Mercer on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
For the past four years, Rutty Jones has typically spent his collegiate baseball career looking on from the Furman dugout. Senior Days aren't typical though. They're special. Jones had no idea how special his would turn out to be when he arrived at Latham Stadium Saturday.

After being honored along with seven teammates in pregame Senior Day festivities, Jones had to quickly focus on a new task. Jones, who had logged a grand total of 21 1/3 innings in his career prior to Saturday, was given the ball to make his first career start.

"I was setting up BP for the 1,000th time that I've been here and coach came up to me and said, 'I think I'm going to give you the start. I'll give you the first batter.' I said, 'coach, I kind of want more than the first batter if you don't mind.' He said, 'if you get the first guy out, you get the next guy,' " Jones said. "I walked the first guy so I figured I was done. He looked and me and gave me this look like just to keep going."

Tasked with starting the rubber game against a Mercer team that had gone 10-2 in its previous 12 Southern Conference games, Jones rose to the occasion. While the Furman bullpen stayed active from the start, Jones just kept getting the Bears out. After that leadoff walk, Jones got a 6-4-3 double play three pitches later. He made it through the lineup unscathed before departing with two out in the third. Only an unturned double play in the second prevented him from three scoreless innings.

"I got lucky and my guys behind me helped me out," Jones said. "It was just an unbelievable day."

After getting knocked around a bit upon relieving Jones, Mason Kenney settled down over the middle three innings while Furman built a lead. Three more relievers protected that lead over the final three innings and it all added up to a 5-3 win.

The outing was Jones' fourth scoreless one in five appearances this year and matched a career long of 2 2/3 innings. After entering this season with a career ERA of 16.53, Jones' ERA this year fell to 3.52 Saturday.

"Rutty was supposed to go one hitter and then he made it one of the toughest decisions I've ever made," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "He's got a torn labrum and is having surgery after the season. He had just done something so awesome, I just thought it would cool for him to walk off the field (alone) instead of getting that third out.
"There's certain things in sports that happen that are just a little more special and that was one of them."

The victory gave the Paladins their fourth consecutive SoCon series win and secured a fifth-place finish in the league standings. Furman (25-29, 13-11) will have a rematch with Mercer to open SoCon Tournament play on Wednesday. The Paladins will take on the fourth-seeded Bears at approximately 12:30 p.m. at Fluor Field.

Rutty Jones (36), Eric Taylor (26), John Michael Boswell (8), Bret Huebner
(3), Jabari Richards (6), Nik Verbeke (21) and David Dunlavey (16)
stand with their families in pregame Senior Day festivities Saturday.
Furman took a 1-0 lead in the second when Jordan Starkes started Saturday like he finished Friday's walkoff win - with an RBI-single. Mercer (29-26, 14-10) got four consecutive hits off Kenney in the third to take a 2-1 lead. Kenney (2-1) allowed no runs and just two hits over the next three innings to pick up the win on his 19th birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, it was Brooks Robinson's 82nd birthday Saturday and Logan Taplett did his best imitation of the greatest defensive third baseman ever. Taplett made three incredible plays to rob the Bears of hits. He fielded a wicked hop down the third-base line and fired to first for the out before making a leaping catch of a line drive in the sixth and a diving catch of a liner in the eighth.

"Logan Taplett made some plays that you don't expect anybody to make and he made all of them," Harker said. "It was pretty impressive to see what he did for us."

Jones added, "It's crazy to think that guy (Taplett) was a catcher even this year at some points. He saved us run after run after run today."

Trailing 2-1 in the fourth, Furman scored a pair of runs to take a lead it never relinquished. Jared Mihalik led off with a single, stole second and later came home on David Webel's grounder with the bases loaded. A throwing error on the play sent Bret Huebner home with the go-ahead run.

After two outs to begin the bottom of the fifth, the Paladins loaded the bases for Huebner, who laid down a perfect bunt. That scored Taplett to make it 4-2. Jordan Beatson blanked Mercer on one hit over the next two innings before senior John Michael Boswell delivered a two-out RBI-single in the bottom of the eighth for a big insurance run.

In the top of the ninth, senior Eric Taylor got a pair of outs but a pair of walks brought Mercer No. 2 hitter Angelo DiSpigna to the plate at the potential tying run. Harker went against "the book" and walked DiSpigna, who entered Saturday with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs. That call was easier to make when it loaded the bases for Zach Miller rather than Kel Johnson. Miller entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth for Johnson, who leads the SoCon in homers (21) and RBIs (60).

Senior Nik Verbeke came on and quickly got ahead of Miller with a pair of swinging strikes. But his 2-2 pitch hit Miller to cut the lead to 5-3. Verbeke got the next batter to fly out to right to end the threat and collect the first save of his Furman career.

"I knew (putting the tying run on base) was the right thing to do and it was still hard to do it. Then we hit the guy and now that tying run's at second and I put him on there," Harker said. "At that point, you've just got to go with your gut and it worked out."

Webel, Mihalik and Banks Griffith had two hits apiece to lead Furman, which will carry plenty of momentum into the SoCon Tournament. From April 16 to the end of the regular season, the Paladins went 13-6, including 8-4 in conference play.

"What a big series for us. We just faced back-to-back No. 2 teams in the conference (Wofford last weekend) and for us to win our fourth (SoCon) series in a row, I'm just really, really proud of this group," Harker said. "It means we're headed in the right direction."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Furman takes momentum into final series

Furman catcher Dax Roper has 12 hits and 12 RBIs
over his last six games. Photo courtesy of Furman
While Samford has wrapped up the Southern Conference baseball regular season title and No. 1 seed in the tournament, there's plenty of dust to settle right behind the Bulldogs in the standings. The next four teams will face off against each other in the final series of the regular season beginning Thursday.

This includes fifth-place Furman (23-28, 11-10), which has been playing its best baseball of the season lately. The Paladins have won five of their last six games, including a win at South Carolina sandwiched between consecutive series wins for the first time this season. After taking two out of three games at Wofford last weekend, Furman pulled a 1/2-game ahead of sixth-place ETSU (31-17, 10-10) and 1 1/2 games back of the Terriers (31-22, 12-8).

The Paladins host Mercer (28-24, 13-8), which is tied for second with UNCG (32-16, 13-8). The Spartans host Wofford, also beginning Thursday. Furman can finish anywhere from third to sixth. If things hold as they currently are, the Paladins would face the Terriers at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Fluor Field. A third- or sixth-place finish would have Furman playing the final of four games that day.

While finishing sixth is obviously not what the Paladins are shooting for this weekend, Coach Brett Harker is more concerned with his team maintaining its consistent play  going into the tournament - no matter the seed.

"We're playing good baseball at the right time," Harker said. "Hopefully we can keep that momentum going against a really good opponent with Mercer rolling into town."

Talk of possibly finishing in the top half of the SoCon seemed out the window just two weeks ago when Furman dropped the opener of its home series against VMI. The lowly Keydets piled up a season-high 18 hits in their 10-4 win that Friday. The Paladins fell behind 3-0 by the middle of the third the next day before rallying to take an 8-3 lead through five innings. One batter into the sixth, a weather delay hit Latham Stadium and the teams sat around for more than four hours before play resumed.

After coming back from the lengthy delay, Furman didn't slow down in recording an 11-4 win. The Paladins posted a 13-5 win the next day to take the series. Along with wrapping up that series win, the Paladins also wrapped up their exams for the semester. The rest of the week, Furman played like a team that could more fully focus on baseball.

"We're playing really well. A lot of it is guys having a lot of stress of classes off their shoulders," Harker said. "And a lot of it is that we're just maturing. We might have some veteran guys at some positions, but we're not super experienced.
"We're not perfect and we're still screwing some stuff up that drives me nuts, but we're finally getting enough reps to play a lot more consistent. We're just a tougher team to beat over nine innings now."

Playing without an ill reigning SoCon Player of the Week in Dax Roper, Furman got a heck of a game caught by Logan Taplett in his place to win at South Carolina for the second year in a row last Wednesday.

"Any time he gets back in there, you'd think he's caught every game this year," Harker said of Taplett. "He's just so comfortable back there and does a great job calling the game, connecting with the pitchers and reading the hitters.
"It's all the things that he had to get a whole lot better at last year. It's amazing when you catch as many innings as he did last year how much you learn and grow in that position."

The momentum kept up at Wofford on Friday when Furman claimed the series win on the first day by sweeping a doubleheader, 7-3 and 9-3. Weather forecast concerns created the doubleheader and left Saturday open for the senior Paladins to participate in graduation that evening.

The next day, Furman fell behind 7-0 through five innings before rallying to take an 8-7 lead into the bottom of the ninth. The Terriers responded with a walkoff homer to salvage the final game, 9-8. While it was kind of a rotten cherry on top of a pretty nice cake for Furman, Harker was proud of how his team got up off the deck.

"I'm as proud of them as I could be. It's extremely hard to sweep a team and almost impossible on the road," Harker said. "We played so well on Friday, and with the weather and graduation and everything, we take all of Saturday off which is a very odd thing to do. Sunday, we were just getting dominated. The 10-run rule is in effect and it's looking like we might not even play nine innings.
"Then the guys show up, start going opposite field very well and all of a sudden we climb back in the game. Eric Taylor just kind of ran out of gas at the end, but we put ourselves in position to win a game in which we were down seven with four innings to play."

It's no coincidence that Furman's improved play has coincided with Jabari Richards getting hot again at the plate. Richards leads the Paladins with a .350 average, despite going 3-for-27 with no RBIs over an eight-game stretch from April 20-May 3. Richards' slump ended on May 4, when he had a squeeze bunt for an RBI to plate the Paladins' first run in that 11-4 win over VMI. His next time up, he bunted for a single. Since that at-bat, Richards has gone 11-for-23 with eight runs, six RBIs and four walks.

Meanwhile, Roper has gone 12-for-24 with 12 RBIs over his last six games. As a team, Furman is batting .339 with 59 runs scored over its last seven games.

The Paladins will face a strong test in a battle of teams that have won each of their last three SoCon series. Mercer is 10-1 in SoCon play since April 13, including a series win over Samford. The Bulldogs only other series loss this year came at South Florida to open the season. Game one of the series is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, while Friday and Saturday are set for 1 p.m. starts.

Monday, May 13, 2019

DeBusk among many influenced by Satterfield

Former Furman quarterback Frankie DeBusk talks with
coach Jimmy Satterfield. Photo courtesy of Furman
A memorial service was held Saturday for Jimmy Satterfield, who passed away last week at the age of 79 after a brief illness. While the pinnacle of Satterfield's football coaching career came in guiding Furman to the 1988 Division I-AA national championship, his influence went beyond any singular moment.

In addition to Satterfield's 21 years as an assistant and head coach with the Paladins, he also coached high school football at Eau Claire, Irmo and Lexington. All told, Satterfield coached, mentored and inspired football players for 40 years - all in the Palmetto state.

One of those players was Furman Hall of Fame quarterback Frankie DeBusk, who helped lead that 1988 squad. In the days after Satterfield's passing, DeBusk received numerous calls from friends. Many of them stated that DeBusk was the first person they thought to call after hearing the news. Under Satterfield's leadership, DeBusk left Furman as the school's all-time leader in passing and total offense.

"He was one of those guys that was easy for me to talk to and get along with," DeBusk said. "He gave me a lot of confidence as a person and a player. I spent so much time in the film room with him and coach (Tim) Sorrells and then coach (Bobby) Lamb. I was just one of those kids that loved watching all the film I could."

While passing numbers at schools across the country have taken off over the last two or three decades, DeBusk still ranks fifth on Furman's career passing chart. However, he's quick to point out that his arm wasn't a major factor in the Paladins' historic success in his first year as a starter in 1988.

"We were phenomenal on defense that year," DeBusk said. "We really didn't do a whole lot offensively until the next couple of years.
"I was very green as a sophomore and I remember the (fullback) Kennet Goldsmiths and (linebacker) Jeff Blankenships of the world meeting me at the numbers whenever I'd throw an interception to make sure we didn't do it again."

DeBusk can look back and laugh now at a particular tense time in Furman's game at Chattanooga that season. On that rainy day, the Paladins got on the scoreboard less than one minute in on Pat Turner's 13-yard interception return for a touchdown. Furman never crossed the goal line again the rest of the day, but still left with a 10-7 victory.

"Back in those days, coach Satterfield wore the headset but it was attached to his waist. It wasn't remote, where I could take it and walk away to talk to somebody. I got the headset and was talking to (quarterbacks) coach Sorrells, who was in the box," DeBusk said. "I was telling him, 'somebody needs to get down here and settle coach Satterfield down because he's losing it. We're not playing very good, but he's really panicking and losing it.'
"I give coach Satterfield the headphones back and then it dawned on me that he probably heard everything I just said. Later on in life, he used to tell that story all the time."

Jimmy Satterfield looks on in this photo
from 1986. Photo courtesy of Furman
Under Satterfield, who served as offensive coordinator for legendary coach Dick Sheridan before becoming head coach, and offensive coordinator Sorrells, the Paladins soared offensively in 1989. DeBusk threw 13 touchdowns and two interceptions that season. Since 1972, only Braniff Bonaventure (16 touchdowns, two interceptions in 1996) has had a season interception total that low among starting Furman quarterbacks.

It appeared the Paladins were well on their way to making it back-to-back national titles as they dominated I-AA competition throughout 1989. After touchdown runs of 54 and 20 yards by DeBusk in the first quarter of the 1989 playoff opener, his third run resulted in a season-ending knee injury. Along with DeBusk, Furman also lost fullback Dwight Sterling, tight end Paul Siffri and linebacker Kevin Kendrick to injuries that day in the win over William & Mary.

While the Paladins persevered and thumped Youngstown State the next week, their season ended at a snowy Paladin Stadium a week later. A failed two-point conversion with 19 seconds left resulted in a 21-19 loss to Stephen F. Austin in the I-AA semifinals.

Satterfield wrapped up his Furman coaching career after his eighth season as head coach in 1993. In his 21 years at the school, the Paladins posted 16 winning seasons. His .689 winning percentage (66-29-3) as a head coach ranks second in school history.

What stands out more than the lofty offensive numbers and wins Satterfield posted at Furman was the impact he made on players. DeBusk is just another member of the huge tree of former Furman players who went into coaching. After his playing career, DeBusk coached for 25 years. The last 18 of those came as head coach at Division II Tusculum College.

"I was just a little ole redneck from Greeneville, Tennessee that had no idea what I was going to do in life and Furman gave me a great opportunity," DeBusk said. "Coach Satterfield was a big part of a lot of people's lives. He was surrounded by a great staff of people that I've stayed close too over the years - Tim Sorrells, Bobby Johnson, Bruce Fowler, Bobby Lamb, Clay Hendrix. Those guys were all part of that family that made us very successful.
"What was so neat looking back on it now was that coach Satterfield brought back so many of his former players or guys that had been around Furman. Probably 85 percent of his staff were Furman graduates. You just don't see that in college athletics in anymore."

That coaching influence is still clearly evident today at Furman in Hendrix.

"As an offensive coach, (Satterfield) had one of the most creative minds I have ever been around. There are many things we continue to do today that coach Satterfield had a hand in developing," Hendrix said. "He gave me my first coaching job when I was 24 years old and didn't know anything. He also attended the press conference 29 years later when I became Furman's head coach."

Sandwiched around his tenure at Furman was a pair of high school state championship appearances. Satterfield's Eau Claire team reached the 1970 Class AAAA state title game and 30 years later, his Lexington team played for the 2000 Class AAAA Division I title.

Satterfield retired from coaching after his final season at Lexington in 2003. In his 21 years as a head coach, Satterfield's teams went 189-63-8. He's a member of Furman and the South Carolina Athletic Halls of Fame.

"He had an incredible impact on so many young men and sincerely cared about what kind of men, fathers, husbands and citizens we would all become," Hendrix said. "Coach Satterfield loved his players and coaches, but what I will remember most about him was how much he loved his wife, kids, and family."

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Alley powers Furman past Gamecocks - again

Trent Alley's go-ahead, two-run single in the ninth lifted Furman to a
7-4 win at South Carolina Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman
When the Furman baseball team knocked off South Carolina last season, it marked the Paladins' first win in Columbia in 10 years. On Wednesday, Furman made sure it wouldn't have to wait anywhere close to 10 for another one

Trent Alley, who fired six solid innings to defeat the Gamecocks on the mound last year, beat them at the plate on Wednesday. Alley's two-run single in the top of the ninth snapped a 4-4 tie and Furman went on to a 7-4 win. Without the services of reigning Southern Conference Player of the Week Dax Roper, who missed Wednesday's game due to illness, Furman coach Brett Harker moved Alley up to Roper's third slot in the batting order. The junior delivered three RBIs for the Paladins (21-27).

After falling behind 1-0 in the first, Furman took a 2-1 lead in the third when Jabari Richards belted his first home run since April 13. It was the eighth home run this season for Richards and the 30th of his career. That moves the senior into a tie with Bob Thomas for sixth on Furman's all-time home run ledger.

The Gamecocks (24-24) didn't want anything to do with Richards the rest of the night. He walked in each plate appearance the rest of the way to finish with four free passes for the game. One of those came on four straight pitches in the fifth to load the bases with one out for Alley, who hit a sacrifice fly to center to put Furman back in front 3-2. A wild pitch then sent David Webel home from third.

South Carolina came back with single runs in the sixth and eighth to tie it going into the ninth. A Furman offense that has struggled with non-fastballs and situational hitting this season looked nothing like that with the game on the line Wednesday.

Bret Huebner led off the ninth by taking a 2-2 breaking ball and lining it the opposite way for a single. Mason Kenney tried to bunt Huebner over, but pulled the bat back on an inside pitch and was struck on the arm. Webel laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third with one out. Richards intentionally walked to once again load the bases for Alley. Rather than trying to do too much, Alley simply bounced a grounder back up the middle. With the Gamecocks' middle infielders playing halfway, the ball got past them into centerfield and Huebner and Kenney scored easily. Logan Taplett padded the lead with an RBI-single.

Rob Hughes came on to close it out for Furman. While the freshman threw 13 pitches to the first two batters, who each drew walks, he needed just nine total pitches to retire the next three Gamecocks to end the game and record his second save.

Furman's Matt Lazzaro, Jordan Beatson, Nik Verbeke and Eric Taylor (2-0) combined to allow four runs on six hits and just one walk over the first eight innings. Beatson, a sophomore from nearby Irmo, had no walks and four strikeouts in his three innings of relief.

Wednesday marked Furman's final midweek game. The Paladins won each of their last four to go 7-6 in midweek games for the season. It's SoCon play the rest of the way as Furman travels to Wofford this weekend before wrapping up the regular season at home against Mercer next week.