Hawks bow out

Published 8:11 am Monday, May 17, 2010

MURFREESBORO – It was a tough way to end it, but they gave the fans a good game.

Chowan University’s baseball team was eliminated by Emmanuel College of Franklin Springs, Georgia from the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) South Region Baseball Tournament at Hawkins Field in the final game on Thursday’s card in a 9-8 thriller that went down to the wire.

Though the game only lasted seven innings under NAIA rules, the slugfest, where both teams banged out 22 hits, lasted nearly three hours with the Lions winning after scoring two runs in their final at-bat.

Senior Mike Taylor, playing his last game for the Blue-and-White, was 2-for-4 with three runs driven in, including a homerun, while freshman Brandon Mack was 2-for-4 with two runs knocked in.

Fellow senior Nate Mitchell closed out his college career with his 13th homerun of the season, tying him with Justin Bagbey for the team lead in round-trippers. Bagbey earlier in the day was named “Player of the Year” in the NCCAA South Region; the same honor he garnered back in April for Chowan in the Hawks’ initial season in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

A quartet of pitchers got time on the mound for the Hawks including starter Tyler King who was knocked out in the first inning. He was followed by John Morris and John Atkins who took the loss in relief.

Andrew Hales, who got his first save in the 5-3 win earlier in the day over Truett-McConnell College, got the final two outs on strikeouts, but Chowan could not pull off another comeback.

“Neither team could do much pitching-wise,” shrugged Hawks coach Aaron Carroll, “but people watching should have enjoyed it because it was a real back and forth battle.”

The Hawks were in a hole early as the Lions scored three runs, chasing King early in just the first inning. But Chowan came back to tie it in the bottom of the frame on a three-run homer by Taylor that cleared the left center-field wall.

Chowan added another run in the bottom of the second to take their first lead, 4-3, when senior John Kellett reached on an error with the bases loaded. Later, with the sacks still full a pick-off at third prevented more Hawks from scoring.

Emmanuel got four runs in the top of the third inning, three coming on a homerun, to take a 7-4 lead.

Chowan pulled back within a run in the bottom of the inning as Mack singled with one out and two aboard, but he was gunned down trying to stretch it into a double and a fly-out ended the inning.

Mitchell’s two-run homerun in the bottom of the sixth inning put Chowan ahead, 8-7, and after a scoreless sixth inning it looked as if the Hawks might avoid fate and emerge with a win.

But fate makes baseball, and in the top of the seventh it came around for Emmanuel. A runner got aboard despite a strikeout when the ball got away from the Chowan catcher. Later a single delivered the tying run, making it 8-8, and the go-ahead run came in on an error.

Chowan got runners in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but two fly-outs ended the Hawks season at 24-23-1 and sent the Lions on to face Southeastern University in Friday’s elimination game. SEU lost earlier to North Greenville, 11-2.

“It’s kind of been the story of our season,” said Carroll, “and a lot of that’s youth, but we worked hard and we’ve still got a lot of young guys that we’re going to build our program around.

“We’ll just cut some grass here for a couple of months,” he added with a grin, “and then get ready to go again with fall ball at the end of August.”