JACKSON, Tenn. - 5/3/2012 - The Union University baseball team claimed the 2012 TranSouth Conference Tournament Title Thursday afternoon with a 2-1 win over Blue Mountain (Miss.) College. This is the second straight tournament title for Union and the third in the past four years.
Union has been to four straight conference tournament title games, winning in 2009, 2011 and 2012. In 2010, the Bulldogs finished runner-up Cumberland, after forcing the “if necessary” game. Cumberland went on to win the NAIA National Championship that season.
Union entered the conference tournament after climbing to a second place finish in the regular season standings. Union (37-17-1) is playing some of their best baseball of the season now as the Bulldogs have won seven straight games, 11 of their last 12 games, and 19 of their last 23 games. Union swept through the tournament with a 4-2 win over 5-seed Cumberland, an 11-5 win over 3-seed Martin Methodist, and twice over 6-seed Blue Mountain, 11-10 and 2-1.
Blue Mountain entered the tournament having been swept in each of their final three conference series to Freed-Hardeman, Bethel and Union. However, in the tournament, the Topper team caught fire and led the tournament with 8.2 runs per game. Blue Mountain’s only two tournament losses came to Union, both by one run.. Blue Mountain had wins over 1-seed Freed-Hardeman (8-7), 4-seed Bethel (11-4), and 5-seed Cumberland (11-10).
In the game, Union rode the arms of starter Benjie Fesmire (6-3) and Cody Dew (10th save) to the victory. Blue Mountain struck first with a solo home run to left field from Gardner Richey. It was the only run for the Toppers in the game. Blue Mountain managed just five hits and left three runners on base. Fesmire tossed 6.2 innings, allowing just two hits and one run with three strikeouts and a walk. The second hit off Fesmire came from the batter following Richey’s homer. Dew entered the game in the seventh and tossed the final 2.1 innings of relief, allowing three hits and getting one strikeout. All of which came in the top of the ninth inning.
Blue Mountain’s leadoff hitter Hunter Mize got the rally attempt started in the ninth with a single to right field. The next batter reached on a bunt single, but with no one covering third base, Mize move all the way from first to third on the single. The Toppers had runners on first and third with no outs. Dew responded with a strikeout of Richey. The lefty cleanup hitter for Blue Mountain, Nate Bell, stepped up to the plate. On the first pitch he saw, Bell laced a line drive right at Union’s first baseman, Jim Martin. Martin made the catch on the hard hit ball and his momentum carried him right to the bag where he touched first for the game-ending double play.
Union scattered seven hits in the game and left 11 runners on base. However, Union did manage a run in the forth to tie the game following Richey’s homer. A sacrifice fly from Will Irvin drove in Kian Jost who reach on a single. Cole McAdams, who singled to lead off the inning, was caught in a rundown between third and home following a comebacker to the mound. In the sixth inning, Union loaded the bases with a hit from Kody Pinson, an error, and a walk to RJ Rayborn. Jon Paul Barber entered the game with the bases loaded as the second relief pitcher used in the inning. He walked Danny Grimm on four pitches to force in the eventual winning run.
Grimm, Jost and Pinson led Union with two hits each. Grimm finished his outstanding tournament play with a 2-for-3 day and one RBI. He finished the tournament 9-for-11 with six walks and five sacrifices. Blue Mountain managed five hits with no player getting more that one in the game.
Up next for Union will be the fourth straight appearance in the NAIA National Championships Opening Round. Union will find out their location Sunday and will start play in the opening round, Thursday May 10.
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