The Citadel finished the regular season with three come-from-behind wins over UNCG, and that momentum carried over in a 10-7 victory over Elon in the second play-in game of the Southern Conference Tournament at Riley Park.
The Bulldogs stormed back from a 6-1 deficit with five runs in the fourth and plated the eventual game-winning runs an inning later to set up a date with second-seeded Davidson on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the opening round of the double elimination portion of the tournament.
Furman won the opening game of the day, edging UNCG 6-5 in 11 innings, and the Paladins will face top-seeded Western Carolina at 1 p.m. The other games on Wednesday feature Appalachian State vs. Georgia Southern at 10 a.m., and Wofford vs. Samford at 8 p.m.
The tournament continues through the week with the championship game scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. All games will be played at Riley Park.
Elon had swept the regular season series from The Citadel and eliminated the Bulldogs from the tournament in each of the past two years. The Citadel will also be looking to avenge a regular season sweep against Davidson, dropping all three games on the road to open the conference schedule.
Trailing 7-6 after Casey Jones homered in the bottom of the fourth, The Citadel (24-32) put together three hits to score twice in the fifth and take the lead for good. Drew DeKerlegand doubled with one out, his second two-base hit of the game, and was at third with two outs when Bret Hines stepped to the plate.
Hines promptly lined a single to center to tie the game, and Calvin Orth brought home Hines with a ground single through the right side to give The Citadel an 8-7 lead.
Johnathan Stokes made it a two-run game in the sixth with a sacrifice fly, and Orth delivered his third hit and third RBI of the contest, both season highs, in the top of the ninth to put the finishing touches on the win.
The bullpen combination of Zach Sherrill and Skylar Hunter turned in 6.2 innings of stellar relief to make the lead hold up. Sherrill took over from starter Logan Cribb with one out in the third and went 3.2 innings, allowing only two hits and the Jones' home run while striking out four and earning the win, improving to 4-1 on the year.
Hunter was then called on for a three-inning save, the longest of his career. The sophomore closer retired the side in order in the seventh, worked around a pair of two-out singles in the eighth and worked an uneventful ninth for his 15th save of the year.
He has saved all four games in The Citadel's current winning streak and tied Link Saunders for the school single-season record set in 2006. Hunter also increased his career save total to 28 in just two years and is one shy of Hank Kraft's record.
The game was a rematch of last year's SoCon Tournament championship game, and it appeared early on that Elon (27-26) would duplicate its 6-5 victory in that contest. After spotting the Bulldogs a first inning run on a double by Mason Davis and ground out by Bo Thompson, the Phoenix put up six in the bottom of the third to chase Cribb.
Tyler McVicar put Elon in front with a two-run single, Nick Zammarelli doubled home a run and an RBI base hit by Andy Moore made it 5-1 and brought in Sherrill. Elon added a final tally on a fielder's choice grounder by Chris Hall before The Citadel was able to escape the inning.
But just as they did against UNCG, the Bulldogs struck right back. DeKerlegand got the rally started with his first double of the afternoon, and two runs scored on Ryan Kilgallen's infield single and subsequent throwing error. Orth singled in a run to make it 6-4 before Hughston Armstrong knotted it up with a two-out, two-run single to center.
DeKerlegand continued his red-hot hitting with the two doubles. The senior left fielder has hit safely in 22 of the last 25 games and raised his average to a team-leading .343. Armstrong also had two hits, giving the senior center fielder nine hits in his last 17 at bats with seven RBI.