Freshman Andrew Judkins scored the game-winning run on a pair of throwing errors to give The Citadel Bulldogs a 7-6 win in 15 innings over La Salle on Friday night at Joe Riley Park.
Judkins singled in the 15th, and took third on an errant pickoff attempt by reliever C.J. Pruitt. The freshman raced to third, forcing a La Salle throw, which skipped into the Explorers' bullpen, sending Judkins racing home and setting off a wild celebration. The Citadel rallied with three runs in the ninth to force extra innings.
“It was a long, fun game…I’m very proud of our guys,” Citadel head coach Tony Skole said. “Proud of the way they battled back in the ninth. You can’t be a great team unless you find ways to come from behind and I thought they showed a lot of heart to come back. Our bullpen was magnificent tonight.”
The Citadel improves to 2-2 overall, while La Salle falls to 2-3. The 15 innings is the longest game for the Bulldogs since a 15-inning contest with Tennessee Tech in 2009.
The Bulldogs scored three runs in the ninth to tie it at 6-6 and were a bang-bang play at first from a walkoff win. Jonathan Sabo and Will Kinney had RBI singles to cut the lead to one. An RBI groundout from Ben Peden tied the game with two outs, when Taylor Cothran chopped a ground ball toward third. Pitcher Austin Constantini’s barehanded catch and throw kept the Explorers alive for the moment.
The Bulldogs' bullpen was the difference. La Salle had just six hits over the final nine innings and only three in extra innings. Jordan Merritt, Jordan Buster, and Alex Bialakis (W, 1-0) all worked three innings. Bialakis allowed just one hit and struck out four. The Bulldogs fanned 15 Explorers on the night.
Kinney tied a Citadel record with eight at-bats in the game, finishing with two hits and scoring twice. Judkins, Sabo, and Cothran all had three hits for The Citadel. Cothran made a key defensive play in extra innings, taking what was at least an RBI double away from La Salle with a leaping grab against the wall and keeping things scoreless in extra frames.
Right fielder and pitcher Connor Hincliffe had four hits to lead La Salle. The Explorers had 13 hits and were errorless through 15 innings until the final play.
The Citadel jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first, taking advantage of a pair of hit batters with Kinney racing home on a wild pitch after a one-out single.
La Salle moved ahead 4-1 in the second on a double from Ryan Guckin and a sacrifice fly from Hincliffe to get to Bulldogs’ starter Dylan Spence.
J.D. Davis scrapped out a two-out walk and stole second to cut the lead to 4-2 on a two-out double from Judkins in the second. Kinney had a double taken away on a diving stop by third baseman Peyton Sorrels to save a run and keep the deficit at two through two innings.
The Bulldogs struck again with two outs in the sixth. Singles by Cam Jensen and Clay Martin set up an RBI walk by Davis to cut the lead to 5-3. La Salle added an insurance run in the eighth to push the lead to 6-3 ahead of the dramatic rally.
The Citadel loaded the bases in the 14th with no outs, but Pruitt induced a pair of fly balls and a strikeout to end the threat.
First pitch of game two of the series is at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Riley Park.