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UNCG's Tripp Shelton
Photo Courtesy of Todd Drexler
UNCG wins slugfest to advance to SoCon title game
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 05/27/2017

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Third-seeded UNCG jumped out to a 6-0 lead and survived No. 4 seed Furman's comeback attempt to punch its ticket to the title game of the Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field with a 12-8 win over the Paladins on Saturday.

UNCG (34-21) awaits the rest of Saturday's results to find out who it will face in Sunday's final. The tournament continues Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with No. 6 seed Samford and No. 7 ETSU squaring off in an elimination contest, followed by the winner of that game facing Furman (31-27) at 7 p.m. for the right to face the Spartans.

UNCG, in search of its first SoCon tournament championship, is in the title game for just the third time overall and the first time since 2001. The Spartans also reached the title tilt in 1998, their first season in the league.

Saturday's high-scoring slugfest played to UNCG's strengths, as the Spartans entered the contest in the top 25 nationally in scoring and fourth nationally with a team batting average of .325. The teams combined for 28 hits, with eight of them going for extra bases, including four home runs.

The Spartans found themselves quickly ahead 6-0 after two innings, with Tripp Shelton accounting for four of those runs. The junior shortstop hit a two-run homer in the first on just the second Furman pitch of the game and added a two-run single in a four-run second as the Spartans seemed poised to run away with it.

Furman regrouped in the middle innings, getting a two-run homer into the seats atop the Green Monster from Jason Costa in the fourth and Cameron Whitehead's two-run homer to right center in the fifth to make it 6-4.

The Spartans countered with a three-run fifth, getting a two-run homer from Andrew Moritz and an RBI single from SoCon Freshman of the Year Caleb Webster, but Furman inched closer with a 4-spot in the sixth. The Paladins played small ball to pull within a run at 9-8, getting an RBI bunt single, a bases-loaded walk, a passed ball with a runner on third and an RBI groundout to give the game new life.

Furman couldn't get the timely hit it needed late, however, as it left the bases loaded in the eighth inning. UNCG intentionally walked Whitehead to get to Costa, and the strategy paid off when Spartan reliever Jack Maynard struck out Costa to end the frame.

UNCG put the game out of reach in the bottom half of the inning, scoring three times to stretch out its lead. A pair of singles put runners on the corners with one out, and Furman intentionally walked Shelton, who was a triple shy of the cycle, to get to .400 hitter Andrew Moritz. Moritz drove in a run with a groundout and a throwing error on the next batter allowed two runs to score to make it a four-run spread.

UNCG starter Dan Loats improved to 8-2 on the year despite allowing six runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Maynard earned his third save of the year with 3 2/3 scoreless innings in which he allowed just one hit.

Matthew Quarles (6-5) took the loss for Furman, allowing nine runs on 10 hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. After Billy Greenfield finished out the fifth and the Paladins pulled within a run, Furman sent out 2016 SoCon Pitcher of the Year Will Gaddis – who threw just 57 pitches in five innings of Wednesday's 13-3 win over Wofford – for the final three frames. He yielded three runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk.

Shelton, Webster and Ben Spitznagel had three hits each for the Spartans, with Shelton driving in four runs and Moritz three.

Jake Crawford was 3-for-5 with a run scored to pace Furman, which also got two-hit games from Whitehead, Sky Overton and Jabari Richards. Whitehead, a senior catcher, legged out his first career triple in the fourth inning before adding his second homer of the tournament later in the day.

May 23 (Tuesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 1: #9 VMI 8, #8 The Citadel 0

May 24 (Wednesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 2: #4 Furman 13, #5 Wofford 3 (7 innings)
Game 3: #1 Mercer 11, #9 VMI 6
Game 4: #7 ETSU 8, #2 Western Carolina 6

May 25 (Thursday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 5: #3 UNCG 6, #6 Samford 3
Game 6: #9 VMI 6, #5 Wofford 5 (10 innings)
Game 7: #6 Samford 6, #2 Western Carolina 1
Game 8: #4 Furman 6, #1 Mercer 1

May 26 (Friday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 9: #3 UNCG 6, #7 ETSU 4
Game 10: #6 Samford 5, #1 Mercer 4
Game 11: #7 ETSU 12, #9 VMI 11

May 27 (Saturday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 12: #3 UNCG 12, #4 Furman 8
Game 13: #6 Samford vs. #7 ETSU 3:30 p.m.
Game 14: Winner Game 13 vs. #4 Furman 7 p.m.

May 28 (Sunday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (ESPN3)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 15: #3 UNCG vs. Winner Game 14 12 p.m.
^Game 16: Winner Game 15 vs. Loser Game 15 40 minutes after Game 15

^ if necessary

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