SEGUIN, Texas – The Franklin College baseball team is headed to the winner's bracket of the NCAA Seguin Regional following an 8-6 win over the regional's top seed and the No. 4-ranked team in the nation in the Trinity Tigers on Friday (May 17) afternoon.
On a hot and steamy day in the Texas sun, the Grizzlies (29-13) jumped out a big lead before the Tigers (34-11) rallied for five straight runs to tie the game. But the Grizzlies shook off the late rally for two runs in the ninth on back-to-back doubles from Nick Wright and Ryan Bixler, providing the difference.
In his first NCAA Regional start, junior Quenton Wellington torched the Tigers, going 5-for-5 with four RBI out of the leadoff spot. Wright and Drew Naumovich had two hits each for Franklin, who finished with 14 hits on the afternoon. It is also the highest-ranked team the Grizzlies have defeated in the 21 years under head coach Lance Marshall.
The Grizzlies struck for the game's opening runs in the top of the second inning, taking advantage of a Trinity miscue on what would have been an inning-ending double play. With runners on second and third and two outs, Wellington lofted the first pitch he saw into right center field for a single, scoring Jarrod Smith and Logan Demkovich.
Trinity got on the board in their half of the fourth inning, cutting the lead in half with a no out, RBI double. But the Tigers managed just the one run in the inning and Franklin made the squandered chance hurt in the top of the sixth.
With two outs and a runner on second, Demkovich knocked in Alex Mis with a single to right center to make it a 3-1 game. Pawley followed with a single to keep the inning alive, bringing Wellington to the plate for the fourth time. The Indianapolis, Ind.-native fell behind two strikes before ripping a 2-2 pitch into the left field corner, scoring two runs and stretching the lead to four. Later in the inning, some trickery on the bases allowed Wellington to steal home, putting the Grizzlies up by a 6-1 count after 5 ½ innings.
But the Tigers would begin to claw back into the game, getting a much-needed run in their half of the sixth. One inning later, the Tigers took advantage of two Franklin errors in the field to score four times and even up the contest.
Trinity put two runners on with one out in the eighth, but left the go-ahead run on base as Nate Stonebraker worked out of trouble to keep the game 6-6 as it headed to the ninth.
For the second straight contest, the Grizzlies found magic in the ninth inning. Sam Claycamp led off the frame with a single and advanced to second on a pick-off attempt gone awry. That brought Wright to the plate, who was in search of redemption after a two-run throwing error in the seventh kept the inning alive for Trinity. The Franklin cleanup hitter came through in a big way, roping a pitch down the left field line for a double, scoring Claycamp to put the Grizzlies back in front. One batter later, Bixler blasted a double off the top of the wall in left, trading places with Wright and extending the lead to a pair.
With a two-run lead to work with, Stonebraker shut the door on the Tigers with a perfect ninth inning, closing out the game and running his record to 6-3 on the year after 2 1/3 innings of work. Jordan Clark got the start for the Grizzlies, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with five walks and four strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.
With the win, Franklin moves on to face the winner of second-seeded Texas Lutheran and third-seeded Concordia (TX) on Saturday (May 18). First pitch for that game is set for approximately 3:30 p.m. eastern standard time.