SEGUIN, Texas – The Franklin College baseball team looked to extend their season on championship Sunday (May 19) afternoon. To do so, the Grizzlies needed to knock off the team that handed them their only loss of the regional, the Concordia (TX) Tornados and would need to do so twice.
In the opening contest of the day, Franklin (31-15) used a methodical approach at the plate to rack up 16 hits and force the winner-take-all game with a 13-4 win. In the seventh and deciding game of the regional, Franklin held a late lead but the Tornados (37-11) would rally down the stretch to take the game 6-4, ending Franklin's deepest ever run in an NCAA regional tournament.
GAME ONE: #4 Franklin 13 – #3 Concordia 4
In his first career appearance as the lead-off hitter, Ryan Bixler led off the game with a double and came in to score two batters later on a ground out from Sam Claycamp. One inning later, Franklin extended their lead to a pair thanks to a Logan Demkovich sac fly, but the Tornados answered with a sac fly of their own in the bottom of the inning to cut the FC lead to 2-1.
The Tornados threatened again in their half of the third, but could scrape across the tying run after leaving runners in scoring position. Franklin would score every inning for the rest of the game, starting with Bixler bringing in a run with a bases loaded walk in the fourth. Franklin doubled their lead with a two-run fifth, getting an RBI single from Jarrod Smith and another run scoring on a throwing error to make it 5-1.
Concordia cut the lead in half with a two-run fifth but would come no closer as Claycamp knocked in his second run of the day with a single in the sixth to make it 6-3. Demkovich brought home his second run of the afternoon with a single in the seventh and Bixler followed with the game's crushing blow, a two-run home run that made it 9-3 Franklin.
Demkovich knocked in another run in the eighth with a double and Franklin added three in the ninth with the game well out of reach.
Nick Elmendorf lasted 4 1/3 innings as the game's starter, allowing three runs on three hits with three strikeouts and six walks. Ben Sprinkle (5-1) took the Grizzlies home, scattering four hits and allowing one unearned run over the final 4 2/3 innings to earn the win and advance the Grizzlies to the championship game.
GAME TWO: #3 Concordia 6 - #4 Franklin 4
Concordia got each of their first two runs courtesy of wild pitches, one coming in the second and the other in the fourth. Staring down their first deficit of the day, Franklin responded in a big way in the bottom of the fourth.
Each of the first two batter reached base and the third man up in the inning Wright got Franklin on the board with a single to left, bringing home a hustling Naumovich. Smith and Demkovich followed with dueling sacrifice flies, giving the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead. Claycamp extended the lead to a pair with a sac fly of his own in the fifth, his fifth run knocked in during the tournament.
The score remained 4-2 until the top of the eighth, when the Tornado bats churned out a pair of runs to tie things up. One inning later, Concordia was back in front thanks to a two-run frame.
But the Grizzlies refused to go down without a fight, with Bixler and Jacob Heuchan drawing walks in the bottom of the ninth to bring the winning run to the plate in Alex Mis. The junior DH worked a lengthy at-bat and got good wood on a 2-2 pitch, but it resulted in a game-ending ground out to third.
Following the game, four Grizzlies were named to the regional All-Tournament Team. Demkovich, Bixler, Claycamp and Naumovich represented Franklin among the top performers in the tourney.