In just his first year at the helm of USCB baseball, Ted Falkner has already captured one of the greatest wins in program history. After coming oh so close on Friday with a pair of 9-1 and 8-6 home losses to No. 2 Southeastern, the Sand Sharks vanquished the Fire in the series finale Saturday, rallying from a run down in the ninth before walking off in the 10th on a Kyran Russ sacrifice fly.
USCB’s offense set the tone early in game three, taking a 2-0 first-inning lead on a Russ RBI single to score Clint Sellers and Brian Meyer. The Fire struck back quickly in the top of the second, scoring six runs sparked by an Austin James home run to go out in front 6-2.
But the Sand Sharks wasted no time wiping away the four-run lead. After the home side loaded the bases, Leandy Castro doubled down the left-field line to cut the deficit in half. Russ added another RBI with a groundout to make it 6-5, and Alex Humphrey poked a single through the right side to knot it at 6.
After a scoreless third, Russ tacked on his fourth RBI with a double to match Southeastern’s single run in the top half of the fourth and even the game at 7. The Fire retook a one-run lead in the top of the sixth on a wild pitch, and Marc Soto shut down USCB’s lineup throughout the next three innings.
But in the bottom of the ninth, the Sand Sharks found the magic again. Down to their final out with the bases empty, Humphrey knocked a single and Nick Milhan smacked a double to right-center to put the winning run in scoring position. Tavaris Terrell drew a walk to load the bases, and pinch-hitter Hunter McKown took four balls to tie the game. Daniel Searles then flied to right, sending the game to extra innings.
Payton McPherson got the job done in the top of the 10th, as a lineout double play erased a leadoff walk before the sophomore struck out Sam Faith to end the inning. Needing just one run to complete the upset, Sellers reached base on a fielding error to begin the rally. Meyer kept it going with a single through the right side, and the Fire intentionally walked Castro to load the bases with nobody out. Russ came up to the plate and drove a fly ball to left field – his fifth RBI of the game – to score Sellers on the sacrifice fly as the dugout erupted in celebration.
The hero led the way all game long, going 2-for-5 with a double and five runs driven in. A remarkable seven different Sand Sharks collected a pair of hits in the game, including doubles for Castro and Milhan along with a triple for Sellers. Brian Bromley and Javier Saenz allowed just one run to a dangerous Fire offense on the mound, and MacPherson earned a well-deserved win, throwing the final three innings and giving up just one hit and no runs.
USCB (20-16, 7-11) looks to keep the momentum surge going on the road Tuesday at St. Andrews.
By Wes Kerr / Photo by Bob Cragin