What did that mean for Shorter? A perfect opportunity.
Blake McCullers drove in three runs, Stephen Adkins tossed six quality innings and the fourth-seeded and 20th-ranked Hawks used a five-run eighth to take the game’s final lead en route to a 12-9 upset of Faulkner in the second round of the SSAC Tournament from Golden Park in Columbus on Friday night.
The win propels Shorter (37-15) into today’s semifinals where the Hawks will face either Lee or William Carey.
Faulkner, which held Shorter to a total of four runs in a three-game sweep of the Hawks in Montgomery just last week, falls into the consolation bracket and will play Auburn-Montgomery at 10 a.m. this morning.
The Hawks left that aforementioned sweep at the hands of Faulkner confident they could play with the tournament favorite.
They proved it on Friday, battling back from a deflating seventh inning to regain control and close out the Eagles in thrilling fashion.
Shorter built a 7-3 lead into the seventh, but Faulkner made a huge push in the bottom of the seventh inning that made it appear the Eagles would extinguish any upset hopes for the Hawks.
The Eagles got a quick RBI single from Tucker Willard to trim Shorter’s lead to 7-4, then loaded the bases with no outs against Shorter reliever Beau Dahlke.
The Hawks proceeded to walk in a pair of runs before Faulkner’s Zak Colby stroked a bases clearing double to the left field foul pole to put Faulkner back in the lead at 9-7.
Devin Dunson bore down and recorded strikeouts for the final two outs of the inning and avoid any further damage.
The Hawks answered back, loading the bases with one out in the top of the eighth.
Hunter Smith came in to pinch hit and struck out, but Bobby Triglia and McCullers drew back-to-back bases loaded walks with two outs to draw Shorter even at 9. Still with two outs, Willie Lewis came home from third on a wild pitch to put Shorter back in the lead and Mike Miranda then drove in two with a seeing eye single up the middle to give Shorter the 12-9 lead.
Faulkner loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the eighth, but Dunson was there again, getting Daniel Cayton to fly out to left to end the threat.
Dunson struck out Kevin Finney to open the Faulkner ninth, then after a walk, got John Gunnels to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Shorter rallied from an early 1-0 deficit with a four-run second, ignited by Dadynoel Lorenzo’s RBI single and capped by Lewis’ RBI groundout that put Shorter up 4-1. Up 4-3 in the seventh, the Hawks loaded the bases and got a two-run single from McCullers off Faulkner reliever Casey Wilson to take a 6-3 lead. Triglia scored on a wild pitch and the Hawks were ahead 7-3.
Adkins started for the Hawks and was nothing short of brilliant, allowing just two earned runs to the league’s No. 1 offense while scattering six hits and striking out four. Adkins threw 93 pitches and gave Shorter a chance to extend its lead by keeping Faulkner off the scoreboard.
Miranda went 3-for-5 to lead Shorter, which recorded nine hits on the day. Lorenzo and Antonio Walcott also notched double digit hits. Bud Fuller got the win in one inning of relief and Dunson notched the save with his two innings of work during which he allowed just one hit and fanned three.