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.

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