Written by Jonathan Barker. Media by Wes O’Dell
It was a long and wet weekend for the Greenville Panther Baseball Team at Robert
E. Smith Field, but their patience paid off as they won the SLIAC Tournament and will compete in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in team history. It also marks the first time a Greenville team has entered an NCAA tournament since the 2011 men’s soccer team.
The Panthers started their weekend with a game against Webster on Friday. After a six-hour rain delay, the Panthers walked away with a 10-6 victory. Dalton McFarland and Josh Wheeler each picked up 2 RBI’s while Travis Ralls batted three runs in. This win sent the team to the championship.
After waiting patiently for the winner of the Webster and Westminster game, the Panthers took the field on Saturday only to be stopped again by the rain. When the game resumed, Westminster pitcher Jake Rule was unstoppable as he pitched all 9 innings and shutout the GC Panthers, only allowing four hits. However, the Panthers would receive a second chance in a winner-take-all championship game.
Josh Wheeler pointed out, “The rain was a complete momentum killer. Especially the fact that the tournament was on our field so we had to take the tarp on and off. It was mentally and physically draining. I don’t think it directly affected my performance but it definitely did not make things easy on us.”
The Panthers weren’t going down without a fight. The championship game remained scoreless until the 4th inning when GC freshman Travis Ralls singled down the left field line to drive in Trevor Montgomery. Ralls commented on his performance: “After our first game against Westminster, some of the seniors and captions were challenging us to come through in clutch situations. I was in one of those situations and luckily, by the grace of God, I was able to do my job and help the team win.”
The Panthers didn’t look back and increased their lead, scoring runs in both the 6th and 7th inning while keeping Westminster scoreless. The team burst with excitement after recording the final out in the top of the 9th. Ralls continued: “A lot of the credit goes to Dillon Reel, Jason Collingwood, and Nick Bifano to continue to work out of jams and keep putting zeroes on the board. They all threw extremely well in the biggest game of the year.”
Nick Bifano recorded his 9th save of the season and was named the SLIAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Bifano spoke on his recognition: “I am very humbled to receive this award. It’s incredible to be apart of a team that has made school history. Working so hard alongside my teammates has been a joy, day in and day out. I love these guys and I love the passion of this team.”
The Panthers will travel to Waterloo, Iowa and will play Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Wednesday the 13th at 12PM. Go Panthers!