ROME, Ga. -- The University of North Alabama got outstanding defensive play and strong pitching performances from Michael Watkins and Brantley Claunch to defeat West Georgia 5-1 in an elimination game in the 2012 Gulf South Conference Baseball Tournament at State Mutual Stadium.
UNA got a run in the first inning and two more in the fifth for a 3-0 lead. The Wolves made it 3-1 in the sixth and had multiple base runners in the seventh and eighth innings but were never able to catch the Lions. UNA's infielders turned three double plays in the contest and made several more outstanding plays to back the Lions' pitchers.
Michael Watkinns (7-2) got the win, allowing just one run and scattering nine hits over seven innings. Brantley Claunch came on and shut the Wolves down the final two innings to earn his third save.
With the win UNA is now 38-15 overall and advances in the tournament to meet an opponent to be determined. Game times for Monday aare 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Eastern, with the matchups to be determined later today, pending the outcome of games 10 and 11.
UNA got a leadoff single from Michael Schmidt in the bottom of the first inning and he later scored on an RBI-single up the middle by Jake Sloan. The Lions extened it to 3-0 in the fifth as J.P. LaMunyon and Andrew Almon both singled and later scored. Drew Parker drove in LaMunyon with a perfect squeeze bunt and Almon scored on an RBI single by Darrmal Moore.
West Georgia finally broke through for a run in the sixth as Bradford Mattox singled, was sacrificed over and scored on a sac fly. UNA had previously gotten out of trouble with double plays to end the second and fourth innings. The Lions got out of more trouble in the seventh as Josh Carpenter made a diving grab of a liner at shortstop and then doubled up the Wolves to end another threat.
After allowing back-to-back singles to start the eighth, Watkins was pulled for Claunch. With two runners on and no outs, Claunch made a diving catch of a bunt attempt for the first out, then got two groundouts to end the inning.
UNA added two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth as Parker and Schmidt both singled and scored to make it 5-0. Claunch then retired the Wokves in order in the ninth for the save.
West Georgia pitcher Cody Skinner gave his best effort of the season, pitching eight complete innings, allowing five runs on nine hits.