ROME, Ga. – The No. 3 seed University of Alabama in Huntsville baseball team battled and rallied in the Gulf South Conference Tournament championship game at State Mutual Stadium, but could not fully overcome an early deficit as the Chargers fell to top-seeded Delta State by a score of 14-8 on Tuesday. The championship is a GSC-record 12th title for the Statesmen, and first since 2008.
After falling to UAH (31-22) in the winner's bracket final on Sunday, 8-4, Delta State (40-12) came back from the loser's bracket to win the title. The Statesmen earned the right to face UAH in the championship game after picking up a 4-0 victory over fourth-seeded North Alabama in game one on Tuesday. UNA defeated UAH on Monday, 9-8, in extra innings to force, in effect, a play-in game for the championship.
The Chargers, who were making their fifth appearance in the championship game, drop to 0-4 when facing Delta State in the finals. UAH lost twice on the final day in 1996 to Delta State, and lost once in 2003 to the Statesmen.
Johnny Shuttlesworth (5-2) picked up the start, and the loss, on the mound for UAH, lasting 1.1 innings in which he allowed four runs on seven hits and one walk. He was relieved by Drew Eiland who posted 5.1 innings, allowing seven runs – five earned – on 11 hits while striking out two. Cody Barrett finished the game after entering in the seventh, working 2.1 innings while allowing three runs on six hits and one walk while notching one strikeout.
Delta State began the scoring with three runs in the first inning before adding another run in the second to open up an early 4-0 lead on the Chargers. The Statesmen then extended its lead to 7-0 with three runs in the top of the fourth inning.
The Chargers got on the board with three runs in the fifth inning, cutting the deficit to 7-3. Vincent Kortbawi started the rally with a single to leadoff the frame, followed by a throwing error by the shortstop and walk to put Mike Love and Jon McKinney on the bases, respectively. A bases-loaded balk by the pitcher plated the first run of the game for UAH in the fifth, while Chandler Brock laced a single to right centerfield on the first pitch he saw to score two more runs.
In the sixth inning, DSU extend its lead again as Michael Vinson blasted a two-out, two-run home run over the right field wall to put the Statesmen up six runs, 9-3. With runners on second and third in the seventh, Delta State added two more runs on a single to right centerfield by Sam Kidd, extending the Statesmen's advantage to 11-3.
UAH continued to battle though, and scored three runs in the seventh inning to make the score 11-6 in Delta State's favor. Justin Pearson connected on a bases-loaded RBI single to score the first run of the inning for UAH. With the bases loaded again, Eric Deese followed with a two-RBI single to right centerfield, which brought the Chargers within five runs - the closest they had been since the second inning.
Delta State crossed the plate for two more runs in the eighth inning, giving the Statesmen a 13-6 lead, but UAH erased those two runs in the bottom half of the eighth with a pair of runs as well. Through eight innings, the Chargers trailed 13-8.
In the top of the ninth, Delta State's Jon Carnahan hit a single into left field which gave the Statesmen their 24th hit of the game, tying the GSC Tournament record. North Alabama also tied the hitting record on Saturday during its 19-1 victory over Christian Brothers.
DSU scored one run in the ninth en route to its 13-8 victory. On the day, the Statesmen scored in all but two innings. Starting pitcher Jordan Moore (7-1) claimed the victory on the hill, working 5.0 innings without allowing an earned run. Moore did allow three unearned runs, however, on three hits and two walks while striking out five Chargers.
The Chargers will now await the announcement regarding the potential for postseason play as the NCAA Division II Baseball Selection Show airs on NCAA.com at 9 p.m. CT on Sunday, May 13.