Baron seniors answer challenge to score GACC tourney win


Brewton-Parker College’s four senior baseball players accepted coach Chad Parker’s challenge Thursday while facing elimination from the Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference postseason tournament and the end of their Baron careers.


After losing their first-round game Wednesday to third-seeded Auburn University-Montgomery (Ala.) 10-0, the No. 6 seeded Barons returned to the Paul Eames Sports Complex in Albany on Thursday with their backs against the wall with an elimination game against Southern Polytechnic State University.


Parker’s four seniors combined for 10 hits and freshman Justin Dover added the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the ninth for Brewton-Parker’s 10-9 victory.


Friday’s action was postponed by rain, with the Barons’ 1 p.m. elimination game against Emmanuel College – the No. 8 seed that opened the tournament by defeating GACC regular-season champion North Georgia College and State University – moved to Saturday at the same time.


A win over Emmanuel and the Barons (25-17) will play at 7 p.m. against the winner of the 10 a.m. game between Auburn-Montgomery and Georgia Southwestern State University. No. 2 seeded Faulkner University (Ala.) and No. 5 Shorter College entered the third day as the only 2-0 teams, and action will continue through Sunday unless a second championship game is needed Monday.


All-Conference selection Denson Gleaton led the Brewton-Parker seniors’ charge with a 4-for-5 outing in which he scored three runs and hit two doubles, the first for his two RBI that ignited the Barons’ four-run first inning.


Ricky Nelson was 2-for-4 with three runs scored, Travis Long was 2-for-4 with three RBI and Chris Coker went 2-for-4 with one RBI.


“We challenged the seniors and they responded,” Parker said. “We challenged them with their backs against the wall. We had worked so hard all year long and then (against AUM) looked like we didn’t deserve to be here. The seniors really stepped up.”


The Barons led Southern Poly (finished at 16-27) led 6-0 after two innings before the Hornets stormed back with eight runs in the top of the third to take the lead. Brewton-Parker tied the score at 8-all with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, with Nelson and Gleaton scoring on Long’s single.


The offense then remained quiet until Southern Poly scored in the top of the eighth to take a 9-8 lead, and the Barons entered the bottom of the ninth with three outs left to act or pack.


Gleaton led off the inning with a single and scored the tying run on Long’s single, on which sophomore Jeremiah Barrow was picked off at second. After freshman Kyle Barfield entered as a pinch hitter for Long, Coker singled and set up Long’s single that scored Barfield for the game-winner.


“Justin Dover has been getting clutch hits for us all year long as a freshman,” Parker said.


Sophomore right-hander Ashley Hooks (4-3) got the win after getting the last two Southern Poly hitters out in the ninth. Junior right-hander Brent Kennedy pitched the previous six innings, allowing three hits and one earned run with six strikeouts and one walk.


Sophomore left-hander Trae Wiggins started on the mound but left after allowing eight runs (all earned) on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts in the first 2-1/3 innings.


Against Auburn-Montgomery on Wednesday, Brewton-Parker allowed the Senators’ Nos. 6 and 7 hitters to go a combined 7-for-8 from the plate and score three runs in each of the second and fourth innings.


AUM (35-22 entering Saturday after a 2-1 loss Thursday to Faulkner) added another run in the seventh and ended the game in the eighth by run rule with three more runs.


“We are still young and we really played scared,” Parker said of his sophomore-dominated lineup, which had taken two of three from the Senators in their regular-season series. “We didn’t play aggressively.”


Nelson and Dover were both 2-for-3 offensively in leading the Barons’ seven-hit attack. Sophomore right-hander Andrew Gernatt (6-3) allowed the Senators’ first five runs (four earned) on six hits with one strikeout in three-plus in taking the loss as the BPC starter.