KODAK, Tenn. -- Lincoln Memorial (33-17) concluded its undefeated run in the 2017 Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championship at Smokies Stadium with a 9-4 victory over seventh-seeded Carson-Newman (29-24) to clinch the tournament championship. The Railsplitters bring home the SAC title for the second time in school history and first since 2013. The team also receives the league's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA DII Southeast Regional Tournament to be held on May 18-22 at a site to be determined and will await its seeding.
The game was a rematch of the 2013 championship. Lincoln Memorial also won that by a score of 9-4.
The win was the Railsplitters' 33rd of the year, which surpasses the 2009 team's 32 for the most in Sziksai's 14-year tenure.
Lincoln Memorial's eight hits and nine runs scored were its lowest totals of the tournament. The Railsplitters batted just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position but were aided by seven Carson-Newman errors that led to seven unearned runs.
Russell Clark (Wexford, Pa.) went 2-for-5 with a two-run single to right. Muta Crusoe (Bellwood, Ill.) finished 3-for-4 with a walk and scored three times. Seth Hunt (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Timmy Wages (Molin, Ill.), the SAC Championship Most Valuable Player, also each drove in a run apiece.
Matt Mullenbach (Urbandale, Iowa) made his first start since March 8 and pitched a season-high 4.2 innings. He allowed all four of Carson-Newman's runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out four. Cody Hinson (Taylor Ridge, Ill.) and Chase Randolph (Harriman, Tenn.) combined for 4.1 scoreless innings of relief as Lincoln Memorial built its lead in the later innings.
Will Gardner started for Carson-Newman on three days' rest after twirling a complete game in the tournament's opening round Thursday against Coker. The righty allowed seven runs in six innings, although only one was earned
Greg Jones went 3-for-5 for the Eagles with a pair of RBI singles. Brett Langhorne reached base three times and went 2-for-3 with an RBI single but the third baseman also committed three costly fielding errors.
Jones put the Eagles up 1-0 in the first on a two-out single to center that scored Ryan Addington.
Wages and Crusoe singled in the second and each advanced a base on a passed ball. This allowed both to score on Langhorne's first fielding error of the game on a ball hit by Tyler Adams (Woodstock, Ga.).
Hunt doubled down the left field line with one out in the fifth and scored on Langhorne's second fielding error. Mason Ewers (Kingsport, Tenn.), who reached on the error, came around to score when Logan Augustine (Urbandale, Iowa) reached on an error by first baseman Paul Kirby. Eric Lynch also committed an error on the play.
The Eagles tied the game at four with three runs in the fifth. Kirby doubled in the first run on a routine fly ball to left that Ewers lost in the sun. He later scored on Jones' second RBI single. Cade Snapp followed with another single before Mullenbach was relieved by Hinson. Langhorne, the first batter Hinson saw, singled up the middle on an 0-2 pitch to score Jones and tie the game.
Crusoe led off Lincoln Memorial's three-run sixth with a double on another routine fly ball that right fielder Trever Lee lost in the sun. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by the catcher Jones on a failed pickoff attempt. Adams then walked. With two outs, Ewers reached on Langhorne's third fielding error. Augustine was then intentionally walked to set up Clark's two-run single.
The Railsplitters added a run in the seventh and eighth on RBI groundouts by Hunt and Wages.
Randolph pitched the final 2.2 innings and got Kirby, Jones and Snapp to fly out in the ninth to seal the championship.