Petrels Mount Huge Rally to Salvage Game Against Rhodes, Win 9-8 in 11
The Oglethorpe baseball team found itself down 7-1 in the fifth inning Sunday afternoon against Rhodes and saw its chances of making the SCAC Tournament beginning to dim. But they stormed back with a furious rally, scoring six runs in two innings to tie the game, scoring again to tie the game in the eighth after Rhodes had immediately gone back ahead, and finally scoring in the 11th to win it, keeping themselves ahead in the race for the final tournament spot.
First baseman Adam Brazenas provided the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 11th, an RBI single down the right-field line to score Hunter Riley. Riley had just come in to pinch run for catcher Jeff Brothers, who led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by starting right fielder Cory Leff.
Oglethorpe's massive comeback started in the fifth inning. With the team down 7-1, second baseman Jake Spear led off the inning with an infield single on a play where Rhodes felt the throw beat Spear to the bag at first. This seemed to provide the spark Oglethorpe needed. On the next play, center fielder Jeff Pope hit into a fielder's choice and Spear reached second on an error, and the rally was on. Shortstop Matt Cornwell and left fielder Brendan Pilger followed with back-to-back doubles, cutting the Rhodes lead in half.
The Petrels completed the comeback in the sixth inning. They loaded the bases with one out on three straight singles. Then it was Cornwell and Pilger driving in the runs again, with Cornwell hitting into an RBI groundout and Pilger tying the score with a two-run single.
Rhodes homered in the seventh to take the lead right back at 8-7, but the Petrels would not be denied, and they came right back in the eighth to tie the score again. Spear led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a Pope walk. It looked like the inning suffered a crucial setback when Cornwell bunted into a lineout double play, but Pilger came through again with a game-tying single, giving him four RBIs in innings 5-8. The pitching then took over for several innings, leading into the 11th.
The two biggest days belonged to Cornwell and Pilger. Pilger went 3-for-6 with a double, two stolen bases, and the four huge RBIs. His double was the 39th of his career, breaking the modern school record for career doubles. Cornwell went only 1-for-6, but he had a double, a run scored, and three equally huge RBIs. The biggest RBI of all belonged to Brazenas, though. It was his only one of the game, and it came on his only hit of the game.
Leff moved to pitcher late in the game and picked up the relief win for the Petrels. He pitched four brilliant innings, allowing Oglethorpe the opportunity to come back, and then the chance to win it in the 11th. He allowed no runs and just one hit, walking one and striking out four. He improved to 2-0 on the year.
The Petrels also celebrated Senior Day before the game. The careers of infielders Andy Farrey and Matt Cornwell; outfielders Brendan Pilger and Andrew Lofholm; and pitchers Sam Briend, Mark Hoban, Spencer Kennedy and Jonathan Joseph were honored in an on-field ceremony prior to the game.
The Petrels improved to 16-14 on the year, 5-6 in SCAC play. The win allowed them to stay a game ahead of DePauw for the final SCAC Tournament spot out of the East. Centre is a half-game ahead of Oglethorpe for the division's second seed. DePauw will host Centre in the final conference weekend of the season, while Oglethorpe will travel to Birmingham to take on division-leading (though ineligible for the championship) Birmingham-Southern.
First, the Petrels will take on a pair of in-state rivals in midweek non-conference play. They will welcome crosstown-rival Emory to Anderson Field for a 7 p.m. start on Tuesday, then travel to Demorest, Ga., to take on Piedmont at the same time on Wednesday.