SEGUIN, Texas – The Franklin College baseball team is headed to the championship round of the Seguin Regional, earning some redemption along the way to the program's first regional championship appearance.
After dropping the winner's bracket matchup to Concordia (TX) in the afternoon 4-0, the Grizzlies (30-14) moved into a rematch with the Tigers with each team's survival at stake. Thanks to a pair of strong pitching performances and a sterling defensive effort, Franklin is in the regional final after knocking off the region's top seed and fourth-ranked team in the natio in Trinity (TX), 6-3.
GAME ONE: #3 Concordia (TX) 4 – #4 Franklin 0
The Tornados capitalized in their first trip to the plate, scoring twice on four hits in the frame. The home team on the scoreboard would go on to add insurance runs in the fourth and seventh innings, respectively, accounting for all the scoring in the game.
Aaron Leming (7-3) got the start for the Grizzlies and lasted four innings, allowing five hits and three runs. Tanner Nicholson entered in the fifth and allowed one unearned run on six hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
The story of the game was Concordia's Matthew Williams, who walked two and struck out seven on his way to a no-hitter.
Game Two: #4 Franklin 6 - #1 Trinity 3
Trinity jumped on top in their first trip to the plate, bringing the game's first run across with a two-out single in the first. But the Franklin bats would answer in a big way in their first trip to the plate, recording five straight hits with one out that led to four crucial runs.
Nick Wright brought the Grizzlies even with a single and was followed by an RBI single from Ryan Bixler. Alex Mis followed with a run-scoring double and Jarrod Smith capped the rally with a run-scoring ground out.
The Tigers had a golden opportunity in the top of the second inning, but it was snuffed out by the Franklin defense. After loading the bases with no outs, Krae Sparks worked out of the jam by getting a force out at the plate and a 4-3 double play to kill the rally.
That started a stretch of eight straight retired by Sparks before the Tigers cut into the lead with a two-run fifth. But another Franklin answer was in order as Sam Claycamp got those runs back with a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning, staking Franklin to a 6-3 lead with four innings to play.
With the offense doing its part, the Grizzly defense and pitching carried them the rest of the way. Trinity put two runners in scoring position with one out in the sixth before Sparks was able to wiggle his way out of the jam unscathed. In the top of the eighth, the Tigers' Jake Martin led off the inning and sent a 1-0 pitch deep into the night. But the ball hung up too long, allowing Smith to reach over the wall in left field and bring a home run back.
The first two Trinity batters reached to start the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate. But Nate Stonebraker dug in, forcing the third batter of the inning to line out and the next to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 twin-killing to send the Grizzlies into the championship series.
Sparks (2-4) was magnificent over 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits with five walks and three strikeouts. Stonebraker earned his eighth save of the year and 12th of his career after allowing one hit over the final 1 2/3 innings.
The win earns Franklin a rematch with Concordia in Sunday's regional championship final. The Grizzlies need to win two games to advance to the super regional while the Tornados are just one victory away from moving on. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. eastern time from Katt-Isbel Field.