For the third time in as many days, North Florida staged a late rally to take the rubber game of a three-game series with a 4-3 victory over The Citadel on Sunday in Jacksonville.
Tyler Marincov lined a single through a drawn-in infield with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth off Skylar Hunter to cap a comeback from a 3-0 deficit. The Ospreys scored twice in the seventh and two more in the ninth to spoil an outstanding performance by freshman starter Austin Mason.
The Bulldogs dropped to 4-3 heading into a busy week with five games in five days beginning at home on Tuesday against UNC Asheville at 4 p.m. North Florida is 5-2 and has won three of five games against The Citadel the past two seasons.
Mason took a one-hit shutout into the seventh when Donnie Dewees lined a two-run homer just inside the right field foul pole to get the Ospreys within 3-2. A single and walk followed before Zach Sherrill escaped further damage by striking out Drew Weeks with the bases loaded.
David Rivera allowed one hit in a scoreless eighth before Hunter took over in the ninth. Alex Bacon led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored the tying run on a base hit to right off the bat of Corey Bass.
With Bass running, Kyle Brooks lifted a fly ball toward the line in right that appeared to be set up for an inning ending double play. But Tyler Griffin misplayed the ball and it fell in for a two-base error that put the winning run just 90 feet away. After an intentional walk to Weeks, Marincov delivered his game-winning hit.
Mason had his second straight solid performance for the Bulldogs but again settled for a no decision. After giving up three hits and one run in six innings in his collegiate debut against High Point last Sunday, Mason allowed only one single and two walks through the first six frames against the Ospreys, retiring seven in a row heading into the seventh before North Florida began its comeback.
In the series opener on Friday, North Florida also overcame a 3-0 deficit in the final three innings before losing 6-3 in 11. In the second game, the Ospreys scored four in the seventh and one in the eighth to come back from 8-4 down to win 9-8.
The Citadel didn't pound the ball on Sunday against North Florida starter Nate Allbritton but still put two runs on the board in the third to break a scoreless tie.Mason Davis and Brett Bullard singled, and Joe Jackson followed with an infield hit to second to plate Davis for his Southern Conference-leading 12th RBI of the season.
One out later, Griffin hustled out what would have been a double play grounder to short to bring Bullard across for a 2-0 lead. Griffin had eight RBI in the three-game series, including five on Saturday when he slammed three home runs.
The Bulldogs added another run in the fifth, again with Davis and Bullard setting the table. The top two batters in The Citadel lineup walked and Jackson laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Griffin just missed another home run when he drove Bacon to the fence in left center but settled for a sacrifice fly that made it 3-0.
Davis stole two bases in the game, giving the speedy second baseman six in as many attempts so far this season. The Bulldogs remained perfect in 11 stolen base tries over the first seven games of the year.
Michael Renner was the winning pitcher for the Ospreys, working the final 3 1/3 innings and allowing only one hit and no runs with three strikeouts.
After taking on UNC Asheville on Tuesday, The Citadel plays at Charleston Southern on Wednesday at 2 p.m. before hosting the Charleston Crab House Shootout presented by Homewood Suites next weekend at Riley Park. Pittsburgh, Virginia Commonweath and UNC Asheville are the other participating teams.