DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ----- For the second consecutive season, the Auburn University at Montgomery baseball team had its season end in the finals of the NAIA Opening Round Tournament, as it fell to host Embry-Riddle, 10-4, Saturday in the Daytona Beach bracket at Sliwa Stadium. The Warhawks avoided elimination earlier in the day by defeating Siena Heights, 9-8, to reach the finals.
In the opener, Hunter Cross drove in three runs including the go-ahead run in the eighth inning to lead AUM (38-24) at the plate. Jorden Johnson paced the team with three hits and two runs scored, while Chezz McCann added two hits, two runs scored and two RBIs.
After the Saints (33-25) scored three runs to tie the game heading to the top of the eighth inning, Brian Wheeler worked a two-out walk to start the scoring rally for the Warhawks in the eighth inning. Cross followed with a double down the right field line to plate Wheeler and give AUM the one-run advantage, which it would not relinquish.
Cody Hall, who threw 118 pitches yesterday against Embry-Riddle, tossed 57 more today and struck out all eight hitters he retired in 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory.
Andrew Morris started on the mound for the Warhawks, tossing 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit, but five runs, as three errors allowed four unearned runs to score. Morris struck out five, but walked four in the no-decision. Tyler Dent allowed four hits and three runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief, before giving way to Hall (9-3).
The Saints scored single runs in the second and third innings to take a 2-0 lead, but the Warhawks rallied back to three runs in the top of the fifth inning. AUM put together three hits in the frame, capped by a two-run single by Cross.
Siena Heights answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame, all of which were unearned to retake the lead, 5-3.
The Warhawks stormed back with four runs in the sixth inning to take a 7-5 lead, behind RBI hits from McCann and Carson Amick. AUM tacked on an insurance run in seventh inning, only to see the Saints score three times to tie the score and set the stage for Cross.
In the championship game, the Eagles (43-16) scored in seven of the nine innings, including seven unanswered from the third to middle-eighth inning.
Embry-Riddle pounded out 16 hits, including a game-high four by Ben Kline. AUM was led by Logan Remson with three hits, while Johnson, McCann and Cross each added a pair of base hits. Shane Turner drove in a team-high two runs.
Kevin Maloney (9-0) earned the victory, tossing eight innings of four-run baseball, despite allowing 14 hits. Michael Carden (6-4) suffered the loss, allowing six runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings. Wes Cook and Will Ruffin also saw action in relief, before Forrest Holifield closed the game out with two scoreless innings. The two-frame effort capped an impressive season for Holifield, who did not allow a run in 11 appearances and 16 1/3 innings of work.
Tied 3-3 after two innings, the Eagles took the lead for good on a RBI by Ian MacGeorge in the third inning. AUM plated its final run of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning on Turner's seventh home run of the season, a solo shot.
The contest against Embry-Riddle also marked the final game for 18 seniors, as Cross, Johnson, McCann, Wheeler, Hall, Morris, Dent, Remson, Carden, Cook, Ruffin, Holifield, Rusty Todd, Michael Dugan, Drew Walker, Cory McGinnis and Daniel Selph all completed their college careers. Dugan, the lone four-year senior in the class was a part of 144 victories and three NAIA Tournament appearances.
With the win, the Eagles advance to the 56th Annual Avista-NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, from May 26 - June 1.