Barons rally to take 2 of 3 from No. 3 Senators

MOUNT VERNON -- After taking three wins in five games over two of the NAIA's best basketball teams, the Brewton-Parker College Barons find themselves in the middle of the tough Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference race.

The Barons overcame their 10-5 loss Friday night to No. 3 ranked and GACC-leading Auburn University-Montgomery (Ala.) with a pair of comeback victories over the Senators in Saturday's doubleheader, 6-5 in eight innings and 5-4.

Saturday's sweep lifted the Barons (17-10 overall, 7-6 GACC) to matching their 17 wins achieved last year in the rebuilding effort under second-year coach Chad Parker and also gave AUM (29-13, 13-2) its first two conference losses.

"We have accomplished some good things," said Parker, whose team is 5-2 against NAIA top-10 teams and 6-4 against top-25 opposition. "By beating these top-25 teams, we are not scared of anybody. We want to play them. It makes us proud that we can beat somebody like that.

"Our thing is we are fighting it out until things get better, and a lot of good things are happening. It is a credit not only to our players but also to our school and our athletic department. We have been on hard times and now we are fighting back."

The Barons led Saturday's first game 4-2 after scoring all their runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Auburn-Montgomery scored two runs in the top of the seventh and then took the lead 5-4 in the eighth inning before Brewton-Parker struck for the win.

After freshman pinch-hitter Kyle Barfield and junior Jason Halstead drew walks, sophomore Rex Harrison singled home Barfield for the tying run, and sophomore Jeremiah Barrow's double scored Harrison for the win.

Harrison was 2-for-4 with two runs batted in, senior Denson Gleaton was 2-for-4 with one RBI and freshman Madison Herrin went 2-for-3.

Sophomore right-hander Andrew Gernatt (5-0) pitched the final two innings in relief of sophomore left-hander Trae Wiggins to get the victory. Gernatt allowed three hits and the eighth-inning run with three strikeouts and one walk. Wiggins had scattered seven hits and four runs (three earned) in six-plus innings.

In Saturday's second game, Brewton-Parker again took the lead with a four-run rally, in the second inning. After sophomore Josh Hendricks drove in senior Travis Long on a sacrifice fly and Halstead singled home junior Miles Zachary, Barrow hit a two-run homer to put the Barons up 4-1.

AUM gained one run back in the third and then tied the game in the top of the seventh on a two-out, two-run home run.

Brewton-Parker then broke the tie when Harrison, who led off the inning with a single, scored on Herrin's bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Zachary was 2-for-3 with a double and Harrison went 2-for-4.

Junior right-hander Brent Kennedy (6-0) got the complete-game victory after he scattered seven hits and four runs (all earned) with five strikeouts and three walks.

"They kept fighting back, but we just refused to lose," Parker said of AUM's late-inning rallies. "I think that is an overall air of the school, refuse to lose."

In Friday's series opener, Brewton-Parker had a 3-1 lead before the Senators scored nine runs in the final four innings. AUM scored four runs in the eighth inning and three more in the ninth before the Barons scored three in the bottom of the ninth, with two runs on a single by freshman Eric Beasley.

Sophomore right-hander Ashley Hooks (2-1) took the loss after allowing three runs (one earned) and three hits with seven strikeouts, four walks and two hit batters in six-plus innings. Sophomore Jonathan Davis was 2-for-2 with one RBI.

"Our players are not going to give up," Parker said. "We believe we can win and deserve to win because we work so hard."

The Barons look to continue their success Thursday, when they play host to the University of Maine-Presque Isle in a 5 p.m. doubleheader at the Brewton-Parker field.

Another ranked team, No. 23 Faulkner University (Ala.), visits the Barons for a three-game GACC series that begins Friday with a 6 p.m. nine-inning game and continues Saturday with a twin bill starting at 1 p.m.

The series also concludes the Barons' home schedule, and the team's four seniors - Chris Coker, Gleaton, Long and Ricky Nelson - will be honored before Saturday's first game.

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Brewton-Parker College junior shortstop Jason Halstead prepares to tag out Auburn University-Montgomery junior Chad Whitacker on a pick-off throw from Barons senior first baseman Travis Long in the third inning of Saturday's first game at the Brewton-Parker field on the campus in Mount Vernon. (Photo by Charles Conkin)