Tuskegee University’s baseball team did something this past weekend that no other baseball team in school history has done on the diamond in 24 years: Play in a conference championship game. The Golden Tigers (final season record of 18-21) managed to go on a remarkable run in the final week of the season, winning four out of five games to put themselves in a position that has not been seen by a baseball team at TU since 1989. The run is even more remarkable, given that Tuskegee entered the tournament as the lowest possible seed in their division (#4 in West), and that the Golden Tigers had to earn a winning record on their final weekend series of the regular season to even get into the conference tournament.
Cash Oliver gets a hit during the SIAC Baseball Tournament at Eagle Stadium. Oliver was named as the SIAC Player of the Year.
Gene Moody tags out a LeMoyne-Owen batter at Paterson Field in Montgomery. Moody was named to the SIAC's All-Tournament team.
The drama began on Senior Day (April 20), when coach Montressa Kirby’s team earned a solid 5-1 victory in a nine-inning contest over LeMoyne-Owen College inside the friendly confines of Paterson Field in Montgomery. Given the way that the two teams were positioned in the SIAC West Division, the Golden Tigers would need to get one win in the following day’s seven-inning doubleheader on the final day of the regular season to enter the conference tournament. After the Magicians earned a 4-2 victory in the first game, they scored nine runs in between the fourth and sixth innings to put Tuskegee in a 10-7 hole with just six outs remaining.
After earning a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Brandon Mapp hit an RBI double to score Tevin Worthy and tie the game at 10-10. In the following at-bat, Alex Henderson hit a line-drive to right-center field that looked like it would send the game to extra innings. But, in an unexpected turn of events, LeMoyne-Owen’s Roderick Franklin dropped the ball in a crucial error, allowing the Golden Tigers to get the 11-10 comeback victory. This allowed Tuskegee to pass the Memphis, Tenn. school by mere percentage points in the standings to earn a trip to Ozark, Ala. for the SIAC Conference Tournament.
The tournament run for Tuskegee began last Thursday (April 25) with a 9-5 win over Albany State University, giving the Golden Tigers a measure of revenge from when they blew a nine-run lead against the Golden Rams at home on March 30 in a 24-17 12-inning loss. In the conference tournament win for Tuskegee, Cameron Duncan hit 3-for-5 and scored two runs to lead TU in knocking off the #1 seed in the East Division. After trailing 4-3 through six innings, Tuskegee exploded with six runs between the seventh and ninth innings of the opening round.
On Friday (April 26) Tuskegee would earn their largest margin of victory in the conference tournament with a 16-5 blowout of Benedict College in the only meeting between the schools in the 2013 baseball season. John Bryant earned the win by pitching the first five innings, and Samuel Rodney would catch fire by going 4-for-5 with two runs and five RBIs. The game was tied at 3-3 through three innings, but the Golden Tigers would score four runs in the fifth inning, three runs in the sixth inning, and force a run-rule decision with six runs in the eighth inning.
Tuskegee would get knocked to the loser’s bracket championship on Saturday, after defending conference champion Stillman rallied from a two-run deficit to earn an 8-7 win, snapping TU’s three-game winning streak. Trailing 6-4 to the Golden Tigers through seven innings, Stillman got three runs in the eighth inning and the game-winning run in the ninth inning. Gene Stewart Moody was the leading hitter in the lineup for the Golden Tigers, as he went 3-for-5 with one run and two RBIs.
In the first elimination game on Saturday (April 27), Tuskegee rallied from a four-run deficit to earn a comeback victory against Miles College by a score of 7-6. Playing as the home team for the first time in the entire tournament, Chris Emerson was able to get the pitching win by striking out a pair of batters in four innings. Cameron Duncan went 2-for-3 with a run to lead Tuskegee in the batter’s box, and the Golden Tigers scored five runs between the sixth and eighth innings to earn their first opportunity to play for a conference title since 1989. But, fatigue wore Tuskegee down, and playing 18 innings in nearly a seven-hour span (with only one 45-minute break in between) proved to be too much to handle. Stillman earned a 12-6 victory over TU in the title game on Saturday to earn their sixth SIAC Championship in seven years.
Gene Moody, John Bryant and Cash Oliver were named to the SIAC’s All-Tournament team. Additionally, Oliver was named as the SIAC’s Player of the Year, with Tuskegee’s lone spot on the SIAC First-Team. John Bryant and Cameron Duncan were named to Second-Team All-SIAC. Jonathan Malone was named to the SIAC’s All-Academic team, with a 3.69 GPA in mechanical engineering.
Head baseball coach Montressa Kirby, along with assistant coaches Reginald Hollins and Wyndal Henry, show off the SIAC Runner-Up Trophy for Tuskegee Baseball. This signifies the first chance to play for an SIAC Championship at Tuskegee University since the 1989 season.
John Bryant, seen with SIAC Associate Commissioner Ruben Perez (left) and Steve Sherrill, director of Ozark Leisure Services (right), shows off his SIAC All-Tournament team trophy.