Tyler Griffin highlighted a five-run, seven-hit seventh inning with a three-run homer, powering The Citadel to a 7-5 victory over UNCG in the opening game of the final Southern Conference series of the year.
The Bulldogs (21-32, 6-18 SoCon) rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 to defeat the Spartans (21-25, 8-14) for the eighth straight time at Riley Park. The loss drops UNCG into one of the four spots in the SoCon Tournament play-in round on Tuesday.
The series wraps up with a doubleheader on Saturday at noon. Preceding the game, The Citadel will recognize its seven seniors including Griffin, Hughston Armstrong, Logan Cribb, Drew DeKerlegand, Ryan Kilgallen, Calvin Orth and David Rivera.
Facing a two-run deficit at the stretch, the Bulldogs got hits from the first six batters in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead. Singles by Mason Davis, Armstrong and Bo Thompson brought in one run, and Griffin followed with a long blast that fell just short of the new video board in right center.
The homer was the seventh of the season for the Bulldog right fielder and upped his team-leading RBI total to 46. It was also his 24th career round tripper, tying him with Thompson and Josh Stackley for 10th place in school history.
UNCG starter Ryan Clark allowed the first four hits of the inning including the Griffin homer before leaving. DeKerlegand, Johnathan Stokes and Kilgallen added singles against a trio of relievers to make it a 7-4 contest.
The Spartans scored a run in the eighth before Skylar Hunter worked a hitless ninth for his 12th save of the season. The sophomore closer is one shy of his save total from his freshman campaign and moved him into a tie for fourth with Randy Corn in The Citadel record book with 25 in his career.
The Bulldogs broke out of an offensive slump with 15 hits including five for extra bases. Griffin added a double to his home run, Armstrong had a pair of two-base hits among his season-high four hits and Davis also doubled. The Citadel had accumulated only two extra base hits over its previous seven games.
Zach Lavery was the beneficiary of the comeback, earning his third win despite allowing two hits and two runs (one earned) in the top of the seventh. Cribb and Austin Mason worked three innings each on limited pitch counts with the SoCon Tournament just four days away.
Cribb allowed four hits and one unearned run while Mason gave up one hit and one run while striking out three.
UNCG scored an unearned run in the first and made it 2-0 in the fourth on a solo homer by Jordan McDonald. An error opened the door for The Citadel in the bottom of the fifth, and the Bulldogs took advantage on the strength of doubles by Davis and Armstrong and a single by Thompson to tie the game.
An RBI double by Eric Kalbfleisch capped a two-run Spartan seventh to give the visitors a lead that was short-lived when the Bulldogs erupted in the bottom of the frame.