SAUGET, Ill. – The No. 13-ranked Franklin College baseball team kicked off play at the NCAA Central Regional on Thursday afternoon, as the fifth-seeded Grizzlies battled the fourth-seed in the region, the Rhodes College Lynx.
The Grizzlies (38-4) and Lynx (30-14) battled in a low-scoring battle in the opening contest of the day at GCS Ballpark. But the Lynx would grab the opening game, scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth inning to come away with a 4-2 win.
The Grizzlies got off to a great start in the top of the first, when junior Sam Claycamp sent a two-out pitch over the left field wall for a solo shot, his ninth of the year to spot Franklin a 1-0 lead. Franklin had a chance to pad their lead in the second, but Freed was gunned down trying to score from first on a two-out double by Smith, keeping the game 1-0.
Rhodes pounced for runs in the third and fifth innings to take their first lead of the day. With Smith on third and two out in the seventh, the Grizzlies caught a break when a pop up from Claycamp was dropped, allowing the Grizzlies to tie the game.
The Lynx had a chance to re-take the lead in the seventh, putting two runners on with one out. But Christian Sullivan worked around a walk and an error to get out of the inning with the game still tied at two.
Rhodes would break through in the bottom of the eighth inning, plating the decisive runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Grizzlies brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after Ryan Erlandson led off the inning with a walk, but couldn't string together a rally past that.
Sullivan worked seven innings in his first career NCAA Tournament game, scattering five hits, walking four and striking out four. Mitch Caster (4-2) allowed a pair of runs in the eighth, striking out one and walking one in relief.
Franklin will play for their NCAA Tournament life on Friday (May 18) morning, taking on Thomas More College in the Central Regional's first elimination game. First pitch from GCS Ballpark is set for 11:00 a.m. eastern time.