ALBANY, Ga. – Savannah State baseball closed out an incredible run this season with a great baseball game against Albany State on Saturday at the 2022 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic ConferenceChampionship Tournament.
The Tigers close the 2022 campaign with one of the best records in modern history at 34-12. The last Savannah State squad that finished with a 30-plus win season was the 2012-13 Tigers, under current Head Coach Carlton Hardy, who finished 33-23 and won a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Championship.
The 2002-03 team was the last to record a 34-win season (34-15) under Head Coach Jamie Rigdon. Rigdon led the Tigers to their last SIAC Championship in 1999. That team finished 46-3.
This year’s team won the regular season SIAC Championship with a 28-2 conference mark. Joe Smith was named the SIAC Player of the Year and Hardy was named the SIAC Coach of the Year. Six other Tigers were named to the SIAC All-Conference team as well.
Savannah State faced off against Albany State in an elimination game on Saturday that was thrice delayed.
Originally scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m., inclement weather pushed the game to 7 p.m. Then another storm system moved in and the game was pushed to 8:05 p.m. At 8:26 p.m., it was postponed until Saturday morning.
With the cold front moved through, the temperature dropped into the 60s in Albany on Saturday morning. Under a clear and sunny sky, it was perfect baseball weather.
Smith opened the game with a lead-off single, and quickly stole second and then third. Cameron Diaz singled up the middle to score Smith and the Tigers took an early lead.
Albany State answered in the bottom of the frame with two hits and a run as Enrico Peele and Jeremiah Reddell settled into a pitching duel.
In the bottom of the third with one out, third baseman Phillip Woullard made a diving grab on a line drive hit foul and then turned to try and get the double play at second to Champion Robbins. The Tigers thought they had it, but blue called the runner safe.
On the very next pitch, Albany State plated the go-ahead on a dribbler through the left side from Nick Hernandez that scored TJ Thomas, who would have been the third out. A quick 4-3 groundout ended the inning though as the Tigers moved into the top of the fourth trailing by a single run.
Peele and Reddell battled from the mound, keeping both teams scoreless through the fourth and fifth innings. But Albany State extended their lead in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Thomas singled to left, scoring two runs for the Rams.
Savannah State, down 4-1 into the top of the seventh, looked to bounce back. Calvin Rucker opened the micro-rally with a solo home run. Then Phillip Woullard doubled to left, firing up the Tiger dugout.
Jaden Oden, pinch-hitting for Omar Almodovar, hit a gem to the empty field in center, scoring Woullard to make it a one-run game with two outs showing. Oden then stole second on an 0-2 pitch to Champion Robbins, putting the tying run in scoring position. But a lineout to center from Robbins left the run on for the Tigers.
By the bottom of the seventh, Peele’s pitch-to-strike ratio was solid with 62 strikes on 93 pitches, including four strikeouts. After a single, Hardy paused the game to talk to him while Rahmir Vaughn warmed up in the bullpen.
Peele shook him off, hoping to finish the game strong. After the talk, Peele recorded a strikeout and forced a fly-out to end the inning.
In the top of the eighth, Smith opened with a fly-out. Then Dwayne Franklin got hit by a pitch to reach, again putting the tying run on the bags.
But just before a 2-2 pitch to Cameron Diaz, relief pitcher Chase Karn caught Franklin stealing. It was the first pick-off of the day after both pitching staffs attempted the first-base pick-off play at least two dozen times. Diaz popped up to end the inning.
As clouds moved in, giving some shade in the eighth inning, Peele recorded the first walk of the game. Vaughn relieved Peele after an excellent start for the right-hander. Albany State put a single runner on in the eighth, but the Tigers held them from scoring.
In the top of the ninth, relief pitcher Jonathan Henry forced a three-up, three-down to send Savannah State home and keep Albany State alive in the tournament.
Peele was tagged with only his third loss (11-3) this season after 7.1 innings on the mound. He allowed four earned runs on nine hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Reddell earned his eighth win after 7.0 innings. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
Courtesy: Savannah State Athletics