by Jason Mehl
Director of Sports Information
The Toccoa Falls College baseball team (28-15-1) won its first conference championship since 1995, by defeating Florida Christian College 8-3 on April 28 in the final game of the conference tournament held at Toccoa Falls. TFC lost to Florida Christian earlier in the day, 7-5, forcing a second game to decide the champion of the double-elimination tournament. The loss put an end to the Eagles’ 12-game winning streak.
For the 11th win in the streak, TFC closed out their regular season with a 7-6 win over Truett McConnell College on April 24. TFC’s Zach Breeden started the game on the mound and went seven innings and gave up only two runs on five hits. With the score 7-2, Breeden was relieved by Justin Key in the 8th inning. In the 9th, Key got into trouble due to two fielding errors and Truett had the bases loaded with no outs and the tying run at the plate. TFC closer Nate Bowen came in and struck out the first two batters he faced, but then gave up two ground-ball base hits that scored four runs for Truett before TFC recorded the third out to seal the win. Breeden got the pitching win and Bowen got the save.
TFC received a first-game bye in the double-elimination conference tournament which began with Florida Christian playing Clearwater Christian College on April 26. Florida Christian won that game which put them in the winner’s bracket against TFC, the game the Eagles won 7-3. Key pitched a complete game, giving up three hits with four walks and four strike-outs. Senior captain Cory Klassen drove in three runs in the game, one in the 2nd inning and two more as part of a four-run 5th inning. Corey Warner was 3-3 with three doubles, including one in the 3rd inning that scored his brother Zach.
Florida Christian was then forced to play Clearwater out of the loser’s bracket and won that game for another shot at TFC on April 28. This was the first game of the day that Florida Christian won 7-5. The game was tied 2-2 until Florida Christian put together a five-run 3rd inning that included back-to-back home runs, one off starter Dylan Charles and one off Breeden who came on in relief. Breeden kept Florida Christian of the board the rest of the way and the Eagles rallied in the fifth when Cam Fulcher walked with the bases loaded and Jordan Couillard hit a two-run double, but the scoring ended there.
The loss set up the championship game which TFC won 8-3. Micah Ellington started for TFC and gave up a two-run homer the second inning, but Zach Warner tied things up at 2-2 with a two-run double in the bottom of the 3rd. Bowen relieved Ellington with one out in the fourth and got Florida Christian’s heaviest hitter, who homered in the 2nd, to ground into a double-play. In the bottom of the inning, with two out, Zach Warner lined a two-run double right over third base scoring Wesley Warren and Josh Ward, and Fulcher came up and drove in Warner with a single and the Eagles led 5-2. Florida Christian threatened in the top of the 5th when they had runners at first and second with no outs, but heads-up defense kept them off the board. A perfectly-defended bunt got the lead runner at third base, Bowen struck out the next batter, then right fielder Andrew Thorne gunned down a runner at home after a line-drive single to end the inning. Bowen gave up a solo homerun in the top of the 6th (his first earned run since Feb. 25), but TFC scored three runs in the bottom of the 6th when Thorne and Klassen both doubled off the wall in left.
Following the game, the championship banner was presented to the Eagles and All-Conference honors were announced. Thorne received All-Conference Honorable Mention. Charles, Couillard, Bowen and Zach Warner were all named to the All-Conference first team. Warner was named Freshman of the Year and Bowen was named Pitcher of the Year. TFC Head Coach Justin Pollock was named Coach of the Year for the third season.
TFC will travel to Prasco Park in Cincinnati, Ohio for its sixth NCCAA Div. II World Series under Pollock. In all but one of those years the Eagles played in the championship game, winning the National Championship twice (2009 and 2011).
Congratulations all the way around!
Safe at second after hitting a double.
Holding up at third.
Tremendous play and throw out at first.
Coach Pollock talks with Nate Bowen about the upcoming game closing inning.
Nate Bowen gets ready to throw another strike.
Toccoa Falls College Baseball team: 2012 NCCAA Regional Champions Division II.