MOUNT OLIVE, NC – Senior center field Buddy Sosnoskie had three hits, including a two-run homer, and scored three runs to spark sixth-ranked and fourth-seeded Francis Marion University past 20th-ranked and sixth-seeded Lander University 10-3, Saturday (May 19) afternoon in an elimination game at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Baseball Tournament.
Francis Marion (39-17) advances to face unbeaten Tusculum College at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening. If FMU wins that contest, the Patriots will advance to the regional title game on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Lander ends its most successful season in school history with a 38-20 record after making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Sosnoskie finished the day 3-for-4 with four runs batted in. He now has 88 hits this season, one shy of the team record of 89 set by Barrett Kleinknecht in 2009. FMU senior catcher Brian Paulhus was 2-for-3 on Saturday with a run scored and two driven in.
Patriot closer Jeffrey Stoner (6-3) relieved starter Gary Ashcraft with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth. The sophomore right-hander pitched 4.1 innings, his longest outing since moving into the closer role, and allowed one run on four hits with four strikeouts.
Three Patriot hurlers held Lander to an 0-for-10 day with runners in scoring position.
Sosnoskie ignited Francis Marion’s offense in the bottom of the second. The Statesville, N.C., native legged out a high chopper to first base for an infield single. Third baseman Stephen Tarkenton, after failing to get down a sacrifice bunt, doubled off the left field line to send the speedy Sosnoskie all the way around to score.
Junior designated hitter Jacob Golliday bunted to move Tarkenton over to third, but he reached safely when no Bearcat covered first base. Senior left fielder Tyler Boyd, appearing in his 191st career game, was then hit by a pitch from Lander starter Scott Elitzky (4-3) to load the bases with no outs.
Paulhus plated a second run with a sacrifice fly to left field, before junior first baseman Rhodes Dickerson walked to reload the bases with one out. Leadoff man Michael Wilson drove home FMU’s third run with fielder’s choice grounder.
Ashcraft was able to escape trouble in the top of the third with some defensive work of his own. Bearcat right fielder Kevin Childs laced a double over the first base bag to lead off the frame. After moving to third on a ground out to second, Ashcraft knocked down a come-backer to mound by Ian Harvey and held Childs at third while throwing to first for the second out. Ashcraft then covered first on a chopper wide of first to Dickerson for third out.
Patriot right fielder Jarrod Reed singled past the first baseman to lead off the last of the third and Sosnoskie followed with a two-run line-drive homer to right center field as the FMU advantage expanded to 5-0. It was Sosnoskie’s second long ball of the year and the third of his two-year stay in Florence.
Ashcraft departed in the fourth after allowing a two-out single and then walking three consecutive batters to force in a run. Second baseman Erik Lunde picked up the RBI. Francis Marion head coach Art Inabinet then brought in Stoner. His first batter, Harvey, reached on a two-out infield error that plated Lander’s second run, but Stoner got All-Conference shortstop AJ Nunziato to fly out to end the rally.
Sosnoskie was hit by a pitch in the fifth, and after Golliday walked, Elitzky was replaced by righty Michael White. Boyd collected an infield single and the ball was thrown away at second base allowing Sosnoskie to score. Paulhus then ripped an RBI single between third baseman and the bag to up the margin to 7-2.
Singles to right by Jacob Tisdale and Childs put two Bearcat runners on with one out in sixth, but Stoner retired the next two batters to end the threat. Wilson ended the frame with a lunging catch of a liner by Harvey in the 5.5 hole that might well have scored two.
The Patriots manufactured a run in the sixth when Wilson walked, moved to second on wild pitch, advanced to third on ground out, and scored on a foul ball sacrifice fly by Reed.
Lander scored its third run on an RBI double to left center by Weston Lawing in the top of the seventh. The Bearcats threatened again in the eighth with two runners on, but Stoner induced back-to-back fly outs to Sosnoskie in center.
Childs led Lander at the plate with a 3-for-3 afternoon, while Tisdale registered two hits.
Sosnoskie accounted for the final two runs of the contest in the eighth frame with a two-run single through right side.
“Today we were able to get out on top early,” said Inabinet. “Stoner came on and held them down during the middle innings and we were able to score a few more runs. The final score was not indicative of the how close the game was, especially in the middle innings.
"Stoner gave us a lift. He's been our closer. He's started some games for us. Today, he came in and gave us a chance to pull away from them. That was a big homer by Sosnoskie. The ball jumps out of here to right field and he got all of it."
Stoner commented, “It's a different mentality starting and closing. Even though I didn't start the game, I needed to go in and give the team some strong innings. My cutter and change were working well today."
When asked about the home run, Sosnoskie said, “I didn't know it was going out, but I hit it solid and on a line." Concerning the quick turnaround from last night’s late game that ended at 2:15 a.m., he added
"Today's a brand new day. It usually takes me a while to get to sleep. I had a sandwich and that was it this morning. Today is show and go day."