After an opening-round loss, No. 3 seed Elon completed its improbable run to a Southern Conference title Sunday, topping No. 4 seed The Citadel 6-5 in the title game of the SoCon Baseball Championship at Fluor Field. With the win, the Phoenix earns the SoCon's automatic bid to the NCAA regionals.
The Phoenix (32-28), which trailed in each of its six games in the tournament, became just the second team in league history to lose its first game and go on to win the tournament, joining the 1991 Furman squad. Elon won a pair of do-or-die games Saturday, handing Georgia Southern a pair of losses to advance to the title bout. The five-game winning streak matches Elon's longest of the season.
Elon will learn its postseason fate Monday at noon, when the NCAA field will be announced live on ESPNU.
Elon scored six runs in the first three innings and staved off The Citadel's late rally to clinch its second title and first since 2008.
With the Phoenix clinging to the one-run lead late, The Citadel (35-25) had perhaps its best shot to tie it in the top of the eighth. With two outs, Mason Davis drew a walk and Hughston Armstrong singled to bring up tournament Most Outstanding Player Joe Jackson.
Jackson, who was 10-for-12 with six walks in the tournament to that point, fell behind 1-2 before working the count full, but Elon reliever Spencer Medick caught Jackson looking to snuff the rally.
Medick then struck out the side in the ninth to nail down his first save of the season, making a winner of starter Kyle Webb (7-3), who started Wednesday's opener and worked 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for his first save of the season Saturday night.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, with Jackson smashing an RBI double high off the Green Monster in left.
Elon quickly responded, plating a pair in the bottom half on SoCon Player of the Year Ryan Kinsella's RBI triple down the right field line and Casey Jones' RBI double into the corner in left.
The Phoenix opened up some breathing room the following inning, with a run coming in on Alex Swim's fielder's choice and two more scoring on Sebastian Gomez's single to right.
Elon made it 6-1 in the third on Chris Bresnahan's RBI single, and after Citadel starter Austin Pritcher hit his third batter of the game, the Bulldogs lifted the SoCon's Pitcher of the Year.
The Bulldogs got their offense going in the fifth inning, getting Tyler Griffin's two-run double to draw witinh three runs at 6-3. The Citadel crept even closer in the seventh, using an RBI triple from Jackson and Griffin's RBI double to get within a single run with just one out.
Medick, who came on before Griffin's double, worked out of the jam, getting a groundout and a popup to escape further damage.
Elon banged out 13 hits in the contest, with five players notching two each. The Phoenix's 2-5 hitters were a combined 8-for-17 in the contest.
Webb allowed five runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings in the winning effort.
Jackson went 3-for-4 Sunday and finished the tournament hitting .769 in the Bulldogs' four games, becoming the first player in tournament history from the losing team to win MOP honors.
Armstrong was also 3-for-4 with three runs scored Sunday. Pritcher (8-3) took the loss, allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Elon's Webb, Kinsella, Antonio Alvarez, Sebastian Gomez and Dylan Clark earned all-tournament honors, while Jackson was joined by Citadel teammates Griffin and Thompson on the team.
Appalachian State's Hector Crespo, Georgia Southern's Justin Hess and Western Carolina's Tyler White and Julian Ridings also earned spots on the team.
SP Kyle Webb, Elon
SP Justin Hess, Georgia Southern
RP Dylan Clark, Elon
C Joe Jackson, The Citadel
1B Ryan Kinsella, Elon
2B Hector Crespo, Appalachian State
SS Antonio Alvarez, Elon
3B Tyler White, Western Carolina
OF Tyler Griffin, The Citadel
Sebastian Gomez, Elon
OF Julian Ridings, Western Carolina
DH Bo Thompson, The Citadel
Most Outstanding Player
Joe Jackson, The Citadel