MONTGOMERY, AL (WDAM) - J.T. Wright broke a tie with a solo home run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to give William Carey University a dramatic 3-2 victory over Bethel University in the opening round of the 2018 Southern States Athletic Conference Baseball Championship at Patterson Field.
Fourth-seeded WCU (33-21) will take on top-seeded Faulkner University (48-6) at 7 p.m. Thursday in a second-round game. The Eagles finished the regular season No. 1 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' Top 25 baseball poll.
WCU closer Ryan Spiers walked two Bethel batters in the bottom of the ninth inning to create a two-on, one-out jam, but got a game-ending double play grounder to seal the Crusaders' victory and pick up the save.
WCU starter Hunter Speer allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings, walking one and striking out seven.
Carey took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Wes Brown's sacrifice fly, but Bethel (22-23) tied it the bottom of the third inning on Lucas Riddick's single.
The Crusaders went back ahead in the sixth inning on David Pimentel's sacrifice fly, but Bethel's Sidney Rickman led off the seventh inning with a solo homer to tie the game again.
After a scoreless eighth, Bethel starter Trevor Bishop got the first two Crusaders in the ninth, but Wright sent the first pitch from Bishop over the fence to put Carey ahead.
Bishop took the loss, allowing three runs on seven hits in nine innings. He walked one and struck out six.
Christian Smith and Brock Cooper each hit two singles for the Crusaders.