The Toccoa Falls College baseball team (28 – 14) claimed their second consecutive South Region championship in Kissimmee, Florida, on April 25 – 26 by defeating Clearwater Christian College 4 – 3 and Florida Christian College 4 – 2. TFC entered the tournament as the #1 seed, Florida Christian was the #2 seed, and Clearwater was the #3 seed. Nationally, the teams were ranked #1, #2, and #4 respectively, making the South Region the nation’s stiffest competition. The Eagles won the double elimination tournament without losing a game and earned an automatic bid to the national tournament.
After Clearwater (12 – 34) defeated Florida Christian (22 – 22) 5 – 2 in the opening game of the tournament, TFC faced the Clearwater Cougars with a place in the championship game on the line. The Eagles jumped to an early 4 – 0 lead in their half of the first inning, and would hold the lead throughout the game. The Cougars attempted to make a comeback and scored three runs on TFC’s starting pitcher Dylan Charles. Charles gave way to reliever Zach Breeden after 6 innings, 6 hits, three runs, three earned, four walks, and three strikeouts. Breeden closed the door on the Cougars comeback attempt and earned the save with one inning pitched, one hit, and a walk. The game ended with two Cougars on base as Eagles right fielder Josh Hill made a diving catch that would have at least tied the game had he not converted the diving effort. Hill also threw a base runner out at the plate in the 5th inning. The save was Breeden‘s first of the year while Charles earned his 8th win.
Offensively, Ronnie Stewart was 1 – 3 with a walk and run. Corey Warner was also 1 – 3 with a run scored and a run batted in. Justin Key contributed a hit in two official at-bats with a walk, a run, and a RBI. Will Patrick was a perfect 2 – 2 with two RBI’s.
With Florida Christian and Clearwater each having one loss in the tournament, they met again on Friday for the right to join TFC in the championship game. FCC exacted their revenge on the Cougars with a 5 – 0 victory. With TFC advancing through the winners bracket, the Eagles needed to win one more game to claim the South Region championship while the Suns would have had to claim two victories to upset the Eagles.
The Eagles again jumped to an early 2 – 0 lead over the Suns, but FCC would force extra innings with a run in each the 4th and 6th innings to tie the game at 2 – 2. With two outs in the top of the 9th, Ronnie Stewart drew a walk for the Eagles and subsequently stole second. Facing a 2 – 2 pitch count, TFC’s Jordan Couillard singled to center, and Stewart was waved around third base. The throw to the plate was late giving TFC a 3 – 2 lead. Couillard advanced to second base on the throw, and would score when FCC’s catcher attempted to throw out Couillard’s advance but threw the ball back into center field. Couillard would come all the way around and score on the two-base error to bring the game to 4 – 2. Starting pitcher Justin Key finished the Suns off in the bottom of the 9th for the complete game victory, his 8th win of the year.
Justin Key, the South’s Pitcher of the Year, threw just 107 pitches in 9 innings and allowed 6 hits, two earned runs, a walk, and four strikeouts. First baseman Ronnie Stewart finished a perfect 4 -4 with a run, a triple, two walks, and two stolen bases. Game one’s defensive hero Josh Hill was 3 – 4 at the plate with a double and a run scored against the Suns. Will Patrick reached base three times with 2 – 3, a RBI, and was hit by a pitch.
Several Eagles received postseason recognition for their performances. Pitcher Dylan Charles, second baseman Josh Ward and third baseman Corey Warner were named to the All-Conference team. Justin Key was named region Pitcher of the Year, designated hitter Zack Warner was voted as region Player of the Year, and Coach Pollock was named region Coach of the Year.
With the South Region championship, the Eagles earned a return trip to Mason, Ohio, and the NCCAA World Series. The Eagles have won three of the last four national tournaments (2009, 2011, and 2012). The national tournament is hosted by Prasco Park and will be held on May 8 – 11. Online streaming, seedings, and game times will be released as soon as they are made available.
Photos courtesy of Mrs. Denise Pritchett.