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Furman Falls To UNCG In SoCon Tournament Championship Final

2017 Furman Paladins
2017 Furman Paladins

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Jake Lewis delivered 5 1/3 innings of effective pitching and Ryne Sigmon homered twice to lift UNC Greensboro to an 13-1 victory over Furman in the 2017 Southern Conference Tournament championship game at Fluor Field on Sunday afternoon.

Furman (33-28), the tournament's No. 4 seed, forced a second and final game to decide the championship after beating No. 3 seed UNCG (35-22), the winner's bracket finalist, 6-4, in Sunday's first contest.  Both teams finished the regular season with 14-10 league records.

The Spartans, who earned the SoCon's NCAA Tournament automatic berth with the win, cracked three home runs in the deciding game, using a two-run blast from Michael Goss in the first inning to grab a 2-0 lead against Paladin starting and losing pitcher Hunter Baker (1-2)

Sigmon belted the first of his two home runs in the second, a solo shot, to make it 3-0, and Goss made it 4-0 an inning later on an RBI single that plated Tripp Shelton.

The Paladins got on the board in the fourth on a Cameron Whitehead single that scored Landon Kay.

Lewis kept it that way until the sixth, when he surrendered a single and a walk before giving way to Dan Loats, who loaded the bases with a one-out walk before recovering to strike out Whitehead and getting Jason Costa on a line drive to left field.

The Spartans blew the game open in the seventh, sparked by Sigmon's leadoff home run and aided two hit batsmen, three walks, and two Paladin throwing errors.

UNCG needed only seven hits to support its attack, headlined by Goss, who went 3-for-4 and drove in four runs.

Furman managed just four hits.

Lewis (2-2) earned the victory while Loats collected the save, his second of the season.

In Sunday's first game Furman staved off elimination with a 6-4 win, using a two-run eighth to take a 5-4 lead and getting a Sky Overton home run in the ninth for the final run.

The Paladins fell behind 2-0 in the first inning but rallied to take a 3-2 lead behind an Overton RBI double and run scoring hits from Costa and Bret Huebner.

The Spartans tallied twice in the sixth to go ahead 4-3 and threatened in the seventh after singles from Tripp Shelton and Andrew Moritz put runners at first and third.  Heath Hawkins squashed the threat, however, coming on in relief of Billy Greenfield and striking out the side.

Jabari Richards opened the decisive eighth with a double and after two outs raced home on a Whitehead double to left field to tie the game.  Costa followed with a pop fly in front of the plate that the Spartans misplayed into a hit, allowing Whitehead to score the go-ahead run.

Furman ace Will Gaddis came on in the bottom of the eighth with two runners on base and needed just one pitch to get the Paladins out of the inning.

In the ninth Overton drilled a two-out, 2-2 pitch from UNCG's Andrew Wantz over the left center field fence to make it a 6-4 game, and it was enough for Gaddis, who closed out the Spartans in the ninth to garner his first career save.

Overton and Costa's three-hit, two-RBI performances led Furman, which registered 11 hits.

UNCG finished with 14 base knocks, with four players tallying two hits.

Hawkins (4-3) was the winning pitcher, working 1 2/3 innings of two-hit, shutout ball.  He struck out three.

The loss was charged to Matt Frisbee (7-4), who allowed two runs on three hits over four innings.

Three Paladins were named to the SoCon All-Tournament team: starting pitcher Grant Schuermann, catcher Cameron Whitehead, and center fielder Sky Overton.  

Schuermann pitched Furman to a 6-1 win over regular season champion and tournament No. 1 seed Mercer on Thursday, allowing only an unearned runs over eight frames.

Whitehead went 8-for-20 with two doubles, a pair of home runs, eight RBI, and scored five runs in six games, and Overton banged out 14 hits in 26 at bats, including a home run, two doubles, and a home run.  He also drove in eight runs and scored six times.  His 14 hits tied a tournament record set by Wofford's Brandon Waring in 2008.

Furman's 33 wins tied the school reord for most victories in a season set in 2008.  The Paladins won 22 of their final 30 games, including 13 of their final 15 SoCon regular season contests.