LaGRANGE, Ga. – The Huntingdon baseball team did it the hard way on Sunday. The Hawks lost to LaGrange 6-5 in the first game before coming back to win 17-9 in the second game to capture the Great South Athletic Conference tournament championship.
"It feels great," Huntingdon right fielder Seth Currie said. "We've worked hard all year and fought through adversity. We had to fight through adversity again this weekend. Nothing came easy, but I think we showed the character of this team. Everything came together at the right time."
The title is the first for Huntingdon (30-12) since 2005. The Hawks were the GSAC runner-up in 2010 and 2011.
"It feels good to win," Huntingdon baseball coach D.J. Conville said. "The way we did it, I think it just reiterates the kind of grit and character this team has. We had to come back to win the first game on Friday and we had to come back and win Saturday's game in 13 innings.
"Today, we lost a close one in the first game and then we came back and got it done in the final game. We talked all weekend about unfinished business. After we lost this morning, we just had to pull it together. Our guys showed what they're made of."
The GSAC does not have an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III baseball playoffs. The Hawks will have to wait until May 13 to find out if they will be selected for the Regional tournament.
"We've just got to wait for the selection announcement," Conville said. "I feel pretty good about where we are. We won 30 games, we were the regular season conference champion and we won the conference tournament. I don't know what else a team would have to do to earn a spot. We'll just wait and see."
Huntingdon almost clinched the GSAC title in the first game on Sunday. Much like the first two games of the tournament, Huntingdon fell behind early. The Hawks rallied from a four-run deficit before LaGrange (17-27) pushed a run across in the top of the ninth to win.
It was a frustrating feeling for the Hawks, but not the end of the road.
"We battled through this tournament. After we lost the first game today, we just knew we had to keep pushing," Huntingdon catcher Joseph Odom said. "We had come too far and we're not a team that gives up. We were able to finish it."
In the final game, the Hawks pounded out 21 hits. Huntingdon scored six runs in the first three innings and all but put the game away in the middle innings.
A Jordan Freeman double brought in Huntingdon's first two runs and a Grant Brown single made it 3-0 in the second inning. LaGrange tied the game 3-3 in the bottom of the second, but Huntingdon scored 10 runs in the next four innings.
A Freeman single in the third gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead. An Evan Agnew single and a Currie sacrifice fly brought in two more runs to make it 6-3. Huntingdon made it 8-5 in the fourth when Odom and Freeman scored on a LaGrange error.
The Hawks blew the game open in the sixth inning. An Agnew single brought in one run, a Currie single brought in a second run and a Brown single made it 11-5. A two-run single by Odom gave the Hawks an eight-run lead entering the bottom of the sixth.
Huntingdon's final four runs came in the seventh and eighth innings. Austin White scored on an error and Currie drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to make it 15-6 in the seventh. An Odom triple and a Trey Smith single brought in the final two runs.
Odom was named tournament MVP. He was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs in the championship game and was 6-for-17 with a home run, seven RBIs and six runs in the tournament.
"It's a great feeling to be named MVP, but there are several guys on this team deserving of the award," Odom said. "To win like we did this weekend, it was a team effort. I think the MVP award belongs to the team."
Freeman and Agnew each had four hits in the final game. Agnew scored three runs, Freeman had three RBIs and three runs and Currie had three hits, three RBIs and a run. Brown had two hits, two runs and two RBIs, Smith had two hits, an RBI and a run, White had two hits and scored twice and Chad Baxley scored twice.
GSAC Freshman of the Year Grant Lowman (7-1) picked up the win, striking out five, allowing three hits and one earned run in three innings of relief.
In Game 1, Freeman had two hits and two RBIs, Smith had two hits and scored twice, Agnew had two hits and Tyler Blackwell had two hits. Cory Belyeu (4-4) took the loss in the first game, despite striking out six, scattering four hits and allowing two earned runs in six innings of relief.