Thanks to some late inning fireworks, the Hawks can enjoy this season for at least one more day.
Former Armuchee star Shannon Houston hit a two-run single with one out in the bottom of the ninth to send Shorter to a dramatic 4-3 victory over 19th-ranked Southern Poly in an SSAC tournament elimination game on Monday afternoon at Golden Park.
Houston’s heroics extended Shorter’s stay at the tourney, and advanced into the semifinal round today.
Monday’s win was Shorter’s 40th on the year and its fifth in the past six games.
Southern Poly (40-15) led for the entire game until the Hawks mounted a thrilling rally in the ninth to overcome a 3-2 deficit.
Senior Clint Harkins, one of two Hawks with three hits on the day, led off the ninth with a single, but was forced out on Willie Lewis’ sacrifice bunt attempt.
Dadynoel Lorenzo followed and singled to shallow right center and a throwing error by Southern Poly’s outfield allowed Lewis to scoot to third and Lorenzo to advance to second on the same play, putting a pair in scoring position for Houston with one out in the inning.
Houston, one of 13 seniors on the Shorter roster, fell behind 1-2 before fighting back to force a full count.
The Rome native stared down the payoff pitch from Poly reliever Brad Hutson and drilled it past Hornet shortstop Devin Thaut into left center field.
Lewis raced home for the tying run and Poly left fielder Jeremy Boyd had no play on Lorenzo who came across for the winning run, capping an unbelievable team effort that kept Shorter’s hopes alive for an at-large berth into the NAIA national tourney.
Perhaps the most important contribution came from Hawks’ starter Stephen Adkins. He attacked the strike zone with regularity and turned in seven strong innings. He surrendered three earned runs on seven hits and struck out four on 125 pitches, allowing Shorter to get deep into the game without having to burn any innings from its bullpen.
Senior Tim Day entered in relief and tossed the final two innings. He surrendered just one hit and fanned one while keeping Southern Poly off the scoreboard. Day won for the second time this tournament — he was the winning pitcher in the Hawks’ 8-4 first round upset of top seed Auburn-Montgomery on Friday.
Poly jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a three-spot in the fourth. Thaut’s RBI groundout produced the game’s first run before Ryan Danbury came up big with a two-out, two run double to left that put the Hornets up 3-0.
Shorter finally fought back and closed the gap in the sixth as another senior, Will Davis, came through with a two-out RBI single to right to pull the Hawks to within 3-1. Harkins followed up with an RBI single to left and Shorter trailed only 3-2.
Shorter’s Blake McCullers, who went 3-for-4 at the plate, made his biggest contribution with his glove in the seventh.
Poly had advanced runners to first and second with two outs against a tiring Adkins and appeared poised to drive across some insurance with Thaut headed back to the plate. Thaut ripped a grounder to the left of McCullers, who laid out to knock the ball down before rising up and firing a strike across the diamond to Cody Hooper at first for the third out of the inning.
Shorter had the momentum from that point on.
Lorenzo went 2-for-5 for the Hawks, who pounded out 13 hits against Poly’s pitching. Shorter’s arms held Poly, one of the country’s top offensive clubs, to eight hits and stranded 10 Hornets on base.