The Greenville College baseball team fought off not only their opponent, Westminster College, but a rain filled weekend in capturing the program's first ever St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title. After watching Westminster knock Webster out of the tournament earlier on Saturday the Panthers fell to Westminster 11-0 to set up a winner take all championship game. It marked just the second time in SLIAC Tournament history an "if necessary game" would be played.
After several rain delays throughout the day the if necessary championship game got under way at 9:45 p.m. Greenville, hosting the tournament, advanced to the championship game for the sixth time in program history after a 10-6 win over five time defending champion Webster University on Friday. Westminster came into the game having already knocked out both Spalding and Webster from the tournament and winning two games earlier in the day including the 11-0 win over Greenville in game six.
Westminster carried their momentum from their two earlier wins, in which they pounded out 27 hits, into the championship game against Greenville. The Blue Jays drew a one out walk and then put runners at first and third after a single by Tyler Branneky. Branneky reached after hitting a line drive off Greenville starting pitcher Dillon Reel's leg. Reel momentarily laid on the ground but managed to re-take the mound and strike out the final batter of the inning to end the Blue Jays threat. Reel continued to shut down the Westminster attack setting them down in order in the second frame. Westminster started the third with a single by Tyler Branneky, but any hope for a big inning was diminished when he was thrown out trying to steal second. Cam Backes walked and then accomplished what Branneky could not, swiping second base and getting into scoring position. But the threat was once again thwarted on a ground out to short to end the inning.
The Blue Jays put the lead off runner on again in the fourth with a single by Tyler Branneky. He moved to second after Nick Bohlmann drew a walk with one out. However the Blue Jays were unable to once again push a run across after a pop up and fielder's choice ended the inning.
Greenville's offense managed their first hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth when Trevor Montgomery singled down the left field line. That hit would be the start of the scoring for the Panthers as Travis Ralls singled down the line to bring in Montgomery and put Greenville up 1-0. A one out double by Backes in the top of the fifth gave the Blue Jays the tying run on base. After the double the Panthers made a pitching change, going to Jason Collingwood. Collingwood induced a fly to left and a ground out to third to get out of the jam.
The Panthers added to their lead in the sixth when Tim Osborne singled to start the inning. Ralls then came through with a two out double that plated Osborne and put Greenville up 2-0. Greenville extended their lead with another run in the seventh when Josh Wheeler scored on a double by Tyler Whitworth to make the score 3-0.
Greenville took no chances with Westminster and brought in their closer Nick Bifano, who led the SLIAC in saves this season, in the eighth inning in hopes of keeping the explosive Blue Jay offense off the board. Westminster's offense had already scored multiple runs in eight different innings during the tournament. As the first batter facing Bifano, Westminster's A Mundle singled to start the eighth. But he was erased on a fielder's choice. A fly ball and another fielder's choice kept the Blue Jays scoreless heading into the ninth.
Bifano had little trouble in the ninth in closing out the game for his ninth save of the year, working around a one out walk, and recording a strike out to end the game and secure the Panthers' first SLIAC Tournament title. Collingwood picked up the win, going 2 2/3 innings of relief and allowing no hits with one strikout. Travis Ralls led the Panthers by going 2-for-4 with two runs batted in while Tyler Branneky led Westminster by going 2-for-4 at the plate.
Greenville earns the SLIAC automatic qualifier spot to the NCAA Division III National Tournament with announcement of the field on Sunday evening. Greenville improves to 22-19 overall while Westminster closes the season at 24-12 overall.