by Jason Mehl
Director of TFC Sports Information
The Toccoa Falls College baseball team won its second National Championship in three seasons last week by storming through the NCCAA Div. II World Series undefeated. The #1 seeded Eagles won four straight games (15-3, 8-2, 10-1, 3-0) in the double elimination tournament held at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio on the strength of dominant pitching, explosive offense, and what Head Coach Justin Pollock called, “The appropriate level of confidence without arrogance.”
TFC rolled through its first game of the tournament on May 11 against #8 seed Philadelphia Biblical University, beating them 15-3 in a game that was called in the fifth inning due to the 10-run rule. TFC scored one run in the 1st inning when Josh Ward stole home. They then scored four runs in the 2nd (three of them off a three-run homer by Adam Reynolds), three runs in the 3rd (two of them off a triple by Reynolds) and a whopping seven runs in the 4th (two of them off a two-run homer by Cam Fulcher). Micah Ellington pitched all five innings for the Eagles, giving up only one earned run while walking one batter and striking out six. Reynolds (3-3, 5 RBI) was a double shy of hitting for the cycle. Ward and Corey Warner were 3-4 and Chris Sheridan was 2-4 and drove in one run.
Later in the day TFC played Clearwater Christian College who beat TFC 7-5 two weeks earlier in the conference tournament. This time TFC won 8-2, in a game that began as a pitching duel between Clearwater’s Brent Kirkley (the NCCAA Div. II national pitcher of the year) and TFC’s Dylan Charles. After five complete innings neither pitcher had given up a run and Charles had only allowed four base-runners. Reynolds started out the fifth inning with a ground-out, but then two Clearwater fielding errors were followed by a single from Chris Jackson and double by Andrew Thorne that scored two runs. Kirkley was replaced and the Eagles batted around and scored four runs and the bases were loaded when Reynolds returned to the plate and hit a grand-slam to cap an eight-run 6th inning. Clearwater scored two runs in the bottom of the 6th, but Charles maintained control and struck out the final batter in both the 6th and 7th innings, the most important of his six strike-outs on the day. Thorne, Tyler Sellers and Warner finished with two hits each.
On the 12th TFC beat Dallas Christian College (Texas) 10-1. After stranding four base-runners in the first two innings, TFC put up four runs in the 3rd (two off a single by Warner) and five runs in the 4th (four off a grand-slam by Sheridan). Cam Fulcher started on the mound for the Eagles and gave up two hits and one run in the 4th. He was relieved in the sixth by Nate Bowen who blanked Dallas for the last two innings. Fulcher also went 2-3 for the game and drove in two runs. Sheridan was also 2-3. The win over Dallas earned the Eagles the right to sit and watch other teams battle in the loser’s bracket on Friday the 13th.
Saturday morning at 11:00, while the majority of the TFC community was involved in the graduation ceremony at Toccoa Falls, the Eagles took the field for the second time against Clearwater, who won a late battle the previous night against Dallas Christian. This time TFC beat Clearwater 3-0 in a game largely affected by the weather. An hour before the first pitch, with the rain coming down, the game was moved from the grass of Prasco Park to neighboring Legacy Field with an all-turf surface. Fulcher was the TFC starter again, after only one day of rest, and Kirkley was back on the mound for Clearwater.
The Eagles put up an important run in the 1st inning after Reynolds singled with one out and advanced to third after an error and a wild pitch, and scored when Chris Jackson hit into a fielder’s choice. In the top of the 4th inning Brett Denney reached on a dropped third strike, stole second base, advanced to third on a ground-out by Thorne and then scored on a Sheridan single. The inning ended when the Clearwater right-fielder made a diving catch on a fly ball hit by Sellers that would’ve scored Sheridan and Warner. TFC’s third run came in the top of the 6th when Thorne walked and later scored on a Sheridan single. Fulcher kept Clearwater off the board for a full seven innings, giving up six hits, walking two batters and striking out five. He was only threatened in the fourth when Clearwater had a runner on second with one out, but Fulcher got the next two batters to pop-out to end the inning. His final pitch of the game turned into a ground ball fielded by Ward who threw to Sheridan for the game’s final out.
After the game, Pollock praised his entire team. “This really was a total team effort. Everyone did everything well–everyone contributed. We fielded very well, only three errors in four games, and no errors in the final game in the constant rain. pitched well, hit well. It’s very satisfying to see as season of hard work pay off like this.” Pollock also mentioned the valuable contribution made by his assistant coaches, Dave Poffenberger and Daniel Fowler. Fulcher was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Reynolds and Sheridan were named to the All-Tournament Team. Pollock, who just completed his seventh season at TFC, was named National Coach of the Year for the second time. The Eagles finished the season with a 31-17 record, setting a record for most wins in a season.