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TIGERVILLE, S.C. — The latest turnaround ended a Cinderella Barton College baseball season with a 9-5 loss to Belmont Abbey in losers’ bracket NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas tournament action Saturday evening on the Ashmore Park diamond.
After an early-season lull, the Bulldogs of second-year head coach Jim Chester triumphed in 11 of their next 17 games to all but seal their first berth in the conference tournament since 2016. By winning its last six games, Barton clinched the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
The Bulldogs celebrated their first tournament victory since 2015 by overcoming Belmont Abbey, 8-7, in their opening game Thursday.
But from that point, old traits of ineffective pitching, leaky defense and the absence of the clutch hit surfaced.
The Bulldogs fell into the losers’ bracket with a 6-5 loss to archrival University of Mount Olive. The Trojans erased a 4-0 deficit.
Playing to keep its season alive, Barton squandered a 3-0 lead against Belmont Abbey and, with the score knotted at 4-4, yielded five unearned runs in the top of the ninth inning.
However, the Bulldogs still had some bark left. Barton scored once and had the bases loaded and just one out. But its dream ended with back-to-back strikeouts as the Crusaders won for the third time in four tournament outings. Belmont Abbey wound up in third place, losing 4-3 to Mount Olive later Saturday evening.
Barton losing junior pitcher Fredrick May retired the first two Crusaders batters in the ninth. However, a walk and an error led to the Bulldogs’ downfall.
After another walk, junior Jakob Rolly sent Belmont Abbey ahead for keeps with a two-run single. Barton committed another error and the Crusaders capitalized with freshman Zach Aehlert’s RBI single and junior Ben Sneider’s two-run single.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Bulldogs struck for a run on singles by junior JoJo Allen, and senior Gatlin Pate, a walk to senior Juan Martinez and a run-scoring single from senior Chase Riker.
Belmont Abbey’s Parker MacPhail, a senior, relieved winning freshman pitcher Jason White. The Bulldogs’ comeback was promptly squelched with Machpail striking out junior designated hitter Noah Almond and junior pinch hitter Brayden Olson.
The Bulldogs used seven pitchers and Belmont Abbey five. The Crusaders outhit Barton, 12-9.
The game’s top pitching performance belonged to Barton starter Connor Patterson. Patterson, a freshman left-hander, blanked the Crusaders the first five innings and wound up working 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, one run and one walk while striking out six.
Barton constructed a 3-0 lead with two runs in the first and one in the fifth. Senior Hunter Pearre and Martinez each singled in the first, with Martinez and Pate each driving in a run. In the fifth, junior Trevor Edior was hit by a pitch; freshman Jacob Marcos singled and Edior scored when Pearre hit into a double play.
In the sixth, senior Carter Brogden’s pinch-hit single drove in Riker, who hit into a force play and stole second.
Junior Justin Moran’s bunt single, freshman Ben Gobbel’s double and junior Richard DelaCruz’s sacrifice fly produced the Crusaders’ first run in the sixth and resulted in Patterson’s exit. A walk, wild pitch and freshman Matty Bapst’s single resulted in Belmont Abbey’s second run. Sneider pounded a two-run double against May in the eighth.
Barton salvaged fourth place in the tournament with a 1-2 mark. After going 12-36 in 2018, the Bulldogs came within one win of equaling the school record for most wins in a season with a 31-20 worksheet.
Chester was voted the coached of the year and Marcos, Allen, Martinez, Olson and junior pitcher Jakob Ryan were honored with second-team, all-conference acclaim. The Bulldogs were projected to finish seventh in a preseason poll of head coaches.
Score by innings:
Belmont Abbey 000 001 125 — 9
Barton 200 011 001 — 5
WP-Jason White (3-2) 1 1/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO. LP-Frederick May (1-2) 1 1/3 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Barton: Carter Brogen 1-1, RBI, Trevor Edior 1-3, Gatlin Pate 1-3, RBI, Juan Martinez 1-3, RBI, Jacob Marcos 1-4, Hunter Pearre 1-5, Chase Riker 1-5, RBI, Noah Almond 1-5, 2B; Belmont Abbey: Jakob Rolly 3-5, 2 RBI, Ben Sneider 2-3, 2B, 4 RBI, Justin Moran 3-4.