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Furman Downs UNCG In SoCon Tournament First Round, 6-5

Jordan Simpson game winner vs. UNCG
Jordan Simpson game winner vs. UNCG
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CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Jordan Simpson's two-out single in the bottom of the 11th inning scored Greg Harrison from third base to lift Furman to a 6-5 victory over UNCG in Southern Conference Tournament single elimination first round action Tuesday afternoon at Joseph P. Riley Park. 

With the win Furman (24-31), the No. 8 seed, advances into the double elimination round of the tournament to face regular season champion and No. 1 seed Western Carolina in a Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. contest. The Paladins won two of three from the Catamounts in Cullowhee during the regular season.

"We've been victims of walk-offs several times this year, so it's good to see our guys come through in clutch situations," said Furman head coach Ron Smith. "Jordan Simpson struggled in his first couple of at-bats; he wasn't seeing the breaking ball very well. He's a great competitor and came through with the big, big hit. We were disappointed that we couldn't do it in nine, and we stretched our pitching beyond what we wanted too, but we're certainly happy with the win."

Simpson, a sophomore second baseman, stroked the first pitch he saw from UNCG reliever and losing pitcher Adam Swim (4-2) into center field, scoring Harrison, who had earlier tied the game at 5-5 with an RBI single that drove home Jake Jones

Simpson's game winning hit made a winner of Alex Abrams (7-2), who pitched the final three innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He walked one and struck out one.

With Furman leading 5-4 with two outs in the top of the ninth, Abrams surrendered a game tying base hit to Hunter King, whose single through the right side scored Zac MacAneney. The Spartans' bid to make it a two-run lead failed when Eric Kalbfleisch, who was running from second on King's base hit, was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

Kalbfleisch temporarily redeemed himself in the 10th with a sacrifice fly that scored Dillon Stewart to give UNCG a 5-4 lead. Stewart opened the frame with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice, and moved to third on a Sean Guite single before coming home on Kalbfleisch's deep fly to right center field.

In the decisive 11th, Hunter Burton led off with an infield single, his third of the game, but was erased on a force play at second. Spartan shortstop Jordan McDonald's attempt to turn a double play failed when his throw sailed over first base into Furman's dugout, allowing Jake Jones to advance to second base. Jones then scored to tie the game at 5-5 on Harrison's single up the middle.

The Paladins took advantage of UNCG's second error of the inning to set up Simpson's game winning hit. Chris Ohmstede's line drive was dropped by Kalbfleisch in left field, allowing Harrison to advance to second base, and after a Abrams ground out, Simpson served the decisive single into center field.

Furman grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Harrison, run scoring double by Abrams, and wild pitch by Spartan starter Max Povse that allowed Ohmstede to cross the plate.

The Paladins made it 4-0 in the second when Cameron Whitehead drew a leadoff walk and scored on a Jones groundout.

The Spartans struck for three run in the fourth, helped along by a pair of bases loaded walks by Furman starter Jacques de Gruy, who was pitching on just three days of rest following his final regular start, a 9-2 win over Appalachian State on Friday.

Elliott Warford, who came on in relief of de Gruy, got the Paladins out of the fourth inning jam by striking out Tyler Long and retiring MacAneney on a grounder with the bases loaded.

Warford pitched into the sixth before departing with the bases loaded and one out in favor of Brant Masters, who induded Guite to hit into inning ending double play.

Masters rolled his second double play ball in the seventh and another twin killing in the eighth, the last of four double plays turned by the Paladins, before giving way to Abrams to begin the ninth,

Harrison went 3-for-6 with two RBI and two runs scored to pace Furman's 15-hit attack. Hunter Hurton also had three hits in six at bats and registered his SoCon leading 40th stolen base. Jones, Ohmsted, Abrams, and Simpson had two hits apiece.

King led UNCG's 15-hit effort with a 4-for-6 performance.