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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Just one out away from a pivotal win in the opening round of the Gulf South Conference Baseball Tournament, the University of North Alabama let a 2-1 lead slip away and went on to drop a 4-2 decision to Valdosta State at AT&T Field.
UNA starter Chad Boughner allowed just five hits and battled into the ninth inning before leaving the game with two runners on base, two outs and the Lions clinging to a 2-1 lead. Reliever Brantley Claunch hit Will Wilson to load the bases, then walked Nick Rodda to force in the tying run.
The game remained tied into the top of the 12th when VSU scored two more runs off Claunch (1-2) on a combination of three hits and a walk. Rodda got a leadoff double and Ryan McClellan followed with a single. Bryant Hayman was intentionally walked to load the bases and Jake Fields squeezed a ball through the left side to score two runs and give the Blazers the 4-2 win.
UNA got a hit in the bottom of the 12th but could not score.
With the loss, UNA drops into the loser's bracket and faces the loser of the Delta State-Christian Brothers game on Friday. UNA is now 27-20-1 overall. Valdosta State improved to 30-15.
North Alabama scored the game's first run without the benefit of a hit in the second inning. Dylan Boston and Mathew Tittle drew back-to-back walks from VSU starter Pete Whittingslow. The Blazers then made an error on a sacrifice attempt by Josh Carpenter to load the bases with no outs. Andrew Almon grounded into a double play but Boston was able to score, giving UNA a 1-0 lead.
Valdosta State tied the game in the top of the third when McClellan singled and Hayman doubled off the wall to score him and make it 1-1.
UNA regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning as Bradley Noland broke-up Whittingslow's no-hitter with a one-out single, was sacrificed to second and scored on a throwing error by VSU's third baseman.
The Lions had a chance to add to their lead in the sixth as Josh Cyr got a leadoff double but was called out at home when he attempted to score on a single by Dylan Boston.
UNA squandered another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the eighth as Josh Doyle got a leadoff single and Cyr followed with a walk. In an ensuing rundown play, both Doyle and Cyr would eventually be called out on the same play after a lengthy discussion by the umpires.
Benjamin Weil (5-2) got the win for VSU, pitching three four innings of relief. He allowed just one hit and walked two. Nick Fogarty recorded the final out to get the save.