Top-Seeded Captains Walk-Off With Win Against Ferrum In USA South Tournament

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BURLINGTON, N.C. – In a back-and-forth battle between top-seeded Christopher Newport (26-6) and the fifth-seeded Ferrum Panthers (20-14), it was a walk-off sacrifice fly off the bat of senior Steven Lindemuth that ended things in the ninth and eliminated Ferrum from the 2012 USA South Conference Tournament. CNU won, 8-7, in a game that featured six lead changes, behind a dominant relief effort from junior Matt Verdillo.
Verdillo tossed 2.2 innings of no-hit relief, striking out six of the eight batters he faced. The CNU junior earned the win, improving to 3-0 on the season. Ferrum reliever Adam Duncan was equally as impressive, pitching 4.2 innings of two-hit relief until giving up back-to-back singles in the ninth. Duncan was saddled with the loss when All-Conference closer Justin Puentes gave up the game-winning sac fly.
Ferrum struck first, when Wes Walker led off the second inning with a solo home run for the Panthers, but Christopher Newport answered in the bottom half when senior Ben Lenda launched a two-run blast to left field. Ferrum erased the lead in the top of the third, though, when Peter Byron led off with a triple and scored on a double-play ball.
The Ferrum bats stayed hot in the fourth, tacking on three more to take a 5-2 lead. It was the second time this season the Panthers scored five earned on the Captains' ace and First Team All-Conference selection Greg Goldsmith. The Panthers used three different players to drive in one run each in the inning to take the lead back.
In the bottom half, CNU answered in a big way, taking the lead on a pair of two-run home runs. Chris McDougal snaked a shot just inside the left field foul pole to pull the Captains back within one, 5-4. Then, after a walk by Shannon Mark, pre-season All-American Connor Madden smoked a hard shot over the left centerfield wall, putting CNU up 6-5.
The game teetered back in the sixth, when Ferrum tied the game on a throwing error with two outs. Byron scored for the Panthers on the play. In the bottom half, Lenda singled to lead off the inning and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. After a groundout and a walk, Madden stepped in and drove in his third RBI of the game with a double to right center field. CNU led, 7-6, with three innings to go.
In the top of the seventh, Ferrum chased reliever Richard Lindsay from the game when they loaded the bases with one out. CNU called on lefty reliever Matt Verdillo, and after an error plated the run, the Captains junior struck out a pair to hold the game at seven runs apiece.
Verdillo struck out the side in the top of the ninth, finishing his 2.2 innings of work by striking out six of seven retired batters. He held the game tied at seven, setting up the bottom of the ninth for the Captains 2-3-4 hitters. Madden started the game-winning rally when he singled with one out and moved up on a single by Saunders. After a walk to Shoemaker, Lindemuth hit a deep fly ball to center that plated Madden for the win.
Walker and Byron each finished 2-for-3 in the game for the Panthers, scoring three and two runs respectively. Daniel Alvarez had a pair of RBI. Madden's 3-for-5 performance was tops for the Captains, driving in three runs and scoring two runs including the gamewinner. Lenda and Saunders were each 2-for-4, while the Captains catcher drove in and scored a pair.
With the loss, Ferrum is eliminated from the 2012 USA South Conference Tournament with a 20-14 overall record. CNU improves to 26-6 and will advance to play (4) Methodist at 1:30 pm on Friday, April 13.