Conner Clark Walks Off With An RBI Single in Extra Innings as CNU Advances Past TCNJ, 6-5

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HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. -- Rookie Conner Clark put together two of the biggest at-bats of his career in a thrilling extra-inning win over The College of New Jersey on Friday night, as the nationally-ranked CNU baseball team escaped with a 6-5 win in 10 innings over the Lions. Clark started a rally with an RBI single in the bottom of the 7th after a 12-pitch at-bat and then delivered the game-winning single in the final inning. 

The Captains improved to 34-10 overall while the 10th-ranked TCNJ Lions fell to 29-10 with the loss. CNU advances to face top-seeded Randolph-Macon College in Game 7 on Saturday with a regional championship berth on the line.

Clark finished with the two biggest of a 10-hit performance by the Captains, who earned the team's seventh win of the season after trailing in the late innings. It was the third walk-off win of the year for CNU and the fifth straight extra-inning victory in NCAA Tournament play for the Captains. CNU last played in extras in a 5-4 win over Salisbury in the 2009 postseason. 

During the win, the Captains endured their third rain delay in two games during the NCAA South Regional. A 30-minute delay in the bottom of the 6th inning ran the total stoppage on the weekend to over 2 hours. Still, the Captains were able to stay in the moment, and flipped a one-run deficit into a one-run lead with a 3-run seventh inning after the delay. 

Austin Henry led off the bottom of the 7th with a single through the right side, and Jordan Mason followed with a single up the middle. The two runners would advance on a balk, putting Clark at the plate with the game-tying run 90 feet from the plate. The freshman fell behind 0-2 in the count before strapping in and fouling off six straight pitches. Then, after taking a ball close to the zone, he fouled off two more before smacking an RBI single into center field for CNU's third run of the game. 

Trailing by one, Seth Woodard stepped in and knotted the game at 4-4 with a hard ground ball up the middle to plate Mason. With still nobody out, Andrew Suppa laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, which would prove a crucial moment as Clark moved up to third base. During the next at-bat, the freshman speedster raced home on a wild pitch to give the Captains their first lead of the day, 5-4. 

Reliever Brian Owens held the lead in the eighth, capping a strong two-inning performance out of the pen with back-to-back strikeouts to end a threat. The sophomore lefty broke the school record for appearances in a single season with his outing on Thursday, and added another to his nation-leading total with two shutout frames on Friday. 

CNU loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth but could not add to their lead, and when TCNJ rallied for a single run with two outs in the top of the 9th, the Captains were forced to play into extra innings. Senior Joe Burris worked quickly through the top of the 10th, earning his second strikeout of the day to end the frame, and send the Captains back to the plate. 

The Captains took advantage of a pair of errors in the bottom of the 10th inning, including on a bad throw that allowed Jordan Mason to race to second base on a fielder's choice. With two outs, Clark stepped in for the dramatic finish. With CAC Player of the Year Seth Woodard waiting on deck,  the freshman again battled with two strikes before slipping a ground ball through the right side of the infield. Mason raced home from second base and the bench erupted in celebration for the walk-off win. 

Clark leads the team in pitches seen per at-bat, at 4.0, and the rookie grinded out the two most important hits of his career to finish 2-for-6 on the day with a pair of RBI. Nick DiNapoli and Austin Henry also added multi-hit performances to lead the way for CNU. 

On the mound, the Captains' staff struck out 12 batters in the 10-inning effort. Burris improved to 3-0 on the year with two innings of work in his 26th pitching appearance of the season. 

The Captains will return to action in the double-elimination tournament at 11:00 am on Saturday against No. 4 Randolph-Macon College. The winning team will advance to Sunday's regional final while the losing team will turn around to play in an elimination game in Saturday night's game nine. TCNJ will play in game eight against LaGrange at 3:00 pm.