The Oglethorpe baseball team was eliminated from the SCAC Tournament Friday, losing 8-7 to Rhodes in 21 innings. The marathon game, which lasted six hours and 50 minutes, was the longest in SCAC history and is believed to be the longest in NCAA Division III history.
The game featured 35 hits (19-16 Oglethorpe), 12 errors (7-5 Rhodes) and 48 men left on base (28-20 Oglethorpe). The two teams combined to send 189 men to the plate over the course of the game. Oglethorpe pitchers combined to strike out 27 Rhodes batters, an entire nine-inning game's worth.
Matt Cornwell and Cory Leff, the two pitchers that have served as Oglethorpe's closers for most of the year, went a combined 15 innings, allowing just one run and striking out 22. Every single one of the innings they pitched came either in a tie or one-run game. Cornwell went six innings without allowing a hit, and was very unlucky to give up the tying run in the ninth inning. He walked just one and struck out 10. Leff went a full nine innings and did not allow a run, scattering nine hits and striking out 12 while walking only three Lynx batters. Rhodes reliever Hunter Chandler went 10 2/3 innings, allowing one run on nine hits. Combined, the three relievers went 25 2/3 innings, allowing just two runs.
The game started with Rhodes jumping out to a big lead in the first couple of innings. They scored three runs in each of the first two innings to take a 6-0 lead.
In the third, Oglethorpe came back with five runs to get back into the game. They got their first three men on base in the inning. Then Jeff Brothers drove one in with an RBI single and Andy Farrey followed with a two-run single up the middle to make the score 5-3. Then with two men out, Jake Spear hit a two-run double down the right-field line. The Petrels had a runner thrown out at the plate to end the inning, but they were back in the game, 6-5.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth. Nick Manai led off by reaching on an error and advanced to third on a single by Jake Spear. Jeff Pope followed with a sacrifice fly, tying the game at six apiece.
At that point, Rhodes brought Chandler, who has a sub-2.00 ERA on the year, into the game. Cornwell had been pitching for Oglethorpe and completely shutting Rhodes down since the fourth inning. It looked as though the next team to score a run would win the game, and Oglethorpe broke through in the seventh.
Rhodes got the leadoff hitter out to start the inning. TJ Schmutz, who had entered the game at shortstop when Cornwell moved to pitcher, was hit by a pitch, and Farrey followed with a single to put runners at first and second. A fielder's choice moved Schmutz to third, and Manai followed with a two-out single to give the Petrels the 7-6 lead.
The game moved to the ninth with the same score. The leadoff batter for Rhodes, Travis Perkins, struck out, but reached on a wild pitch. This proved to be a very big play, especially when he was subsequently balked to second. Cornwell got the next two men, but Perkins stole third on a Lynden Pindling walk to put the tying run 90 feet away. Then, on a crazy play where Oglethorpe didn't ask the umpire for time after a pitch and nobody was covering home plate, Perkins seized on the opportunity and scored to tie the game.
The game entered extra innings, and quality pitching and a series of crazy occurrences conspired to keep the game tied for the next 11 innings. The two teams combined to leave 31 men on base during extra innings. In the 16th, Oglethorpe thought they had won the game on a safety squeeze, but the runner was called out at the plate and an additional runner was caught off third because he thought the game was over. In the 17th, Rhodes thought they had taken the lead when Leff threw the ball off the Rhodes batter at first on a sacrifice bunt attempt and the ball ricocheted into the outfield. However, the play was called back for interference on the Rhodes batter and Leff got out of the inning unscathed. In the 18th, Oglethorpe head coach Dan Giordano was ejected from the game for arguing another close play at first base on a bunt attempt where Leff attempted to tag the batter out but the umpire said he avoided the tag. Rhodes had runners at first and second with nobody out after that, but Leff got out of that jam, too.
Emmett Goodman came in to pitch for Oglethorpe in the 19th and mowed Rhodes down in both that inning and the 20th. But Rhodes finally broke through in the 21st. A leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt put a runner on second. The runner eventually advanced to third and scored on a swinging bunt in between Goodman and Brothers. Goodman tried to make the play at first, but threw the ball into right field on a play where the batter probably would've beaten the throw, anyway. The run scored and Rhodes had an 8-7 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning. the Petrels loaded the bases with one out. However, they had a runner thrown out at the plate on another safety squeeze, and with two out and the bases still loaded, they hit into a force-out at second to finally end the game.
Goodman was saddled with the loss, going three innings and allowing the one run on just one hit. He walked two and struck out two.
Jeff Pope went 4-for-8 with a sacrifice fly, two walks, two stolen bases, and a run scored. Farrey went 3-for-10 with two RBIs. Manai went 4-for-10.
With the loss, the Petrels are now 17-20 on the year. They will finish the season with four games next week, starting Monday night with a 7 p.m. game against Atlanta Christian at Anderson Field.