COLUMBUS, Ga. ----- Senior Will Ruffin scattered just five hits in eight strong innings of work, but a one-out single by Reagan Rutledge in the bottom of the seventh plated the eventual game-winning run, as Auburn Montgomery fell 2-1 to Belhaven in game two of pool play at the Southern States Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament on Wednesday.
The Warhawks (32-23-1) will conclude pool play on Friday, when they challenge Southern Poly at 11 a.m. AUM fell in its opening pool-play game to Faulkner on Tuesday.
Ruffin kept the Blazers (37-20) off balance for much of the game, allowing just back-to-back singles in the first inning before three consecutive hits in the seventh. He struck out one and issued one walk in the tough-luck loss.
"I think this was the best game Will has thrown for us," head coach Q.V. Lowe said. "He gave us everything he had, but we just weren't able to get key hits for him. We had some opportunities, but in a close ball game, you have to capitalize. Today, we just couldn't get it done."
Following singles by Jason Hicks and Kyle Wheeler with two outs in the first inning, Ruffin retired 10 consecutive hitters, before a fielding error by Bryan Young snapped the streak. The Waverly, Ala., native promptly picked off Rutledge following the miscue to continue his efficiency.
However, in the seventh inning, Ruffin ran into trouble following a lead-off fly out by Hicks. Wheeler followed with a double down the line in left field, before Bud Britt followed with a double off the outstretched glove of Hayden Hillyer to plate courtesy runner Brayden Dykes. Rutledge followed with a single up the middle to plate Britt with the go-ahead run.
"I think he missed with a couple pitches in the seventh, but I cannot say enough about how good he was all day," Lowe added.
AUM broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth inning, when Hillyer drove in Josh Thompson with its lone run off Blazers' starter Chris Good. Chad Mansmann led off the frame with a bunt single, but was erased on a Thompson fielder's choice. However, while attempting to turn the double play, Ryne Cook's errant throw allowed Thompson to move up a base. Blake Bearden followed with a bunt single, moving Thompson to third, before Hillyer laced a single to left for the RBI.
The Warhawks squandered an opportunity to take the lead three innings earlier. Branden Kelley drew a one-out walk from Good and moved up a base on a groundout by Mansmann. Following a walk to Thompson, Bearden followed with a sharp single to centerfield that appeared to plate Kelley. However, Thompson was thrown out at third base and made the third out before Kelley touched home, thus eliminating the run.
Mansmann led the team with three hits on the day, pushing his season average to .407. Bearden added a pair of hits in the loss. AUM had runners on base in six of the nine innings and left 10 runners on base. Belhaven stranded just two runners.
Good was strong as well on the mound for Belhaven, scattering nine hits and working around four walks to improve to 14-3 on the year. Wheeler paced the Blazers with two hits, including the rally-starting double.