TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 20, 2018) – Tallahassee Community College clinched a berth in the NJCAA Gulf District/FCSAA State Baseball Tournament with Friday's 6-3 win over Pensacola State College.
Tallahassee has won nine of 11 since a 3-7 start to improve to 12-9 in Panhandle Conference play and 34-16 overall. The Pirates have dropped four straight and are now 22-26 (9-14).
Eagle righty Justin Sorokowski (5-0) labored through the first three innings before settling in and eventually pitched into the seventh. He won his fourth straight start while lowering his PC-leading ERA to 1.80 but only after minimizing a slew of early scoring threats by Pensacola State.
The Pirates' first two batters reached base in the first, which turned into a 1-0 lead following a fielder's choice and Josh Rulli's sac-fly to left. Griffin Rivers' two-out single put runners on the corners with two outs but Sorokowski struck out Jake Nemith to end the inning.
Sorokowski found himself in trouble again in the second. After walking the leadoff batter for the second straight inning, Bucky McGlamry doubled and the Pirates had two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Sorokowski didn't flinch, however, and retired the next three batters – two on strikeouts – to get out of the inning unscathed.
Thanks to an assist from his defense, Sorokowski snuffed out another scoring opportunity in the third. With one out, Wilfredo Alvarez tagged up from third on Rivers' fly out to right, but Tanner Thomas made a near-perfect throw and catcher Kyle Benson applied the tag on the second attempt after Alvarez avoided Benson's first but missed home plate.
That turned out to be the Pirates' last real scoring threat until the eighth. By then, Tallahassee led 6-1.
The Eagles also missed a couple of early opportunities to put runs on the board. They loaded the bases in each of the first two innings, despite only recording one hit, but could only score one run. A passed ball in the second allowed Trey Polewski to race home from third.
Tallahassee manufactured single runs in the third and fourth, again with only one combined hit.
Logan Lacey reached on an error to start the third and eventually scored on Polewski's sac-fly. In the fourth, Benson drew a leadoff walk – one of 11 free passes issued by the Pirates – and later scored on Lacey's single.
Benson added a two-run homer in the fifth to extend the Eagles' lead to 5-1, and Jayson Sowden's pinch-hit, RBI-single in the sixth plated Thomas.
Tallahassee preserved its lead with some timely defense in the latter innings.
With a runner on first and one out in the seventh, James Parris sent one deep to right-center but Miller raced over from center and made a diving catch on what turned out to be Sorokowski's final pitch.
Sorokowski scattered six hits and two walks over 6.2 innings while striking out five.
Rivers singled home Alvarez and Nemith's sac-fly scored Josh Rulli to make things interesting and cut the Eagles' lead to 6-3. Cameron Wright, who replaced Benson behind the plate in the sixth, threw out Rivers attempting to steal second to end the eighth.
Sowden, who stayed in the game following his sixth-inning at-bat, made a sliding catch in left-center for the first out of the ninth. The Pirates, however, eventually brought the tying run to the plate, but Kinney, fittingly, ended the game with a strikeout – the Eagles' seventh of the game and 465th on the season, which continues to lead the nation.
Seven different players accounted for the Eagles' seven hits. Benson finished 1-for-1 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Thomas was officially 0-for-1 but walked four times.
Tallahassee and Pensacola State will conclude their season series at 2 p.m. eastern on Saturday in Pensacola.
Looking ahead, the NJCAA Gulf District/FCSAA State Tournament will take place Friday, May 11-Tuesday, May 15 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., the Spring Training home of the Detroit Tigers. Tallahassee will open postseason play at 10 a.m., May 11 against the champions of the Suncoast Conference.