SAUGET, Ill. – With their season on the line Friday (May 18) night, the No. 13-ranked Franklin College baseball team ensured at least one more game in their historic season, picking up an 8-6 win over Thomas More in the first elimination game of the Central Regional.
Sophomore Nick Wright belted a pair of home runs, the second coming in the bottom of the seventh to put Franklin (39-4) in front for good. Ryan Bixler and Jarrod Smith also went deep for the Grizzlies, with Smith recording three hits and reaching base all four times he stepped to the plate against Saints (24-20) pitching.
After conceding an unearned run in the top of the second, Franklin got right back to even when Smith took the fourth pitch of the second inning and sent it over the left field wall, just inside the foul pole to knot things up at 1-1. The game would stay tied long, as Thomas More took the lead in the top of the third with a home run that made it a 3-1 game.
Franklin cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third when Bixler doubled home Ryan Erlandson from third base. One inning later, the Grizzlies tied things up when a throwing error on a Jacob Bryant infield single allowed Smith to score. Wright put the Grizzlies in front for the first time in the game in the fifth with a two-out solo home run that made it a 4-3 game.
Drew Naumovich padded the Franklin lead in the bottom of the sixth, swiping home without a throw to stretch the lead to a pair. Franklin was one out away from taking a two-run lead into the bottom of the seventh, but consecutive doubles led to three Thomas More runs and a 6-5 Saints lead.
With momentum in the visitor's dugout when the bottom of the seventh started, Bixler wasted no time shifting momentum back to the Grizzlies when he hammered the fourth pitch of the inning over the left field wall, tying the game with his 15th home run of the year. Sam Claycamp followed with a walk, bringing Wright to the plate. The Bloomington, Ind.-native blasted a 1-2 pitch over the wall in right center field, giving him 10 long balls on the year and making it an 8-6 game.
That proved to be all the cushion needed, as Nate Stonebraker entered the game in the eighth and retired six of the final seven batters to close out the win and earn his fourth save of the year. Jordan Clark (1-0) was dominant over seven innings of work, allowing six hits, walking three and striking out 11 Thomas More batters. It was the fourth career double-digit strikeout performance in the Connersville, Ind-native's career.
With the win, Franklin moves on to play on Saturday (May 19) night, taking on either third-seeded Texas-Tyler or second-seeded Wisconsin-Whitewater in the final elimination game of the day. First pitch is set for approximately 8:45 p.m. eastern time from GCS Credit Union Ballpark.