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‘Baseball miracle’: D-III crew stays alive in WS

Associated Press Jun 1, 2024, 09:20 PM ET EASTLAKE, Ohio — The team with no school won’t quit. Birmingham-Southern is still swinging. Now playing despite the school being closed for good, the Panthers kept their hopes of winning a national championship alive Saturday night with a thrilling 9-7 comeback victory over Randolph-Macon in the Division

‘Baseball miracle’: D-III crew stays alive in WS

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Jun 1, 2024, 09:20 PM ET

EASTLAKE, Ohio — The crew with no college will not give up.

Birmingham-Southern remains to be swinging.

Now enjoying regardless of the college being closed for good, the Panthers stored their hopes of profitable a nationwide championship alive Saturday evening with an exhilarating 9-7 comeback victory over Randolph-Macon within the Division III World Collection.

Jackson Webster hit a two-run, walk-off homer within the ninth inning to provide Birmingham-Southern, a crew that has shortly captured the eye of sports activities followers throughout the nation with its feel-good story, a win bordering on surreal.

“Baseball miracle, proper?” Webster mentioned. “The storybook is not completed.”

The Panthers squandered a 4-0 lead and fell behind 7-4 earlier than scoring three runs within the eighth — getting back-to-back RBI singles by pinch hitters within the rally — to tie it.

Then got here the ninth and a second seemingly extracted from a Hollywood script or Disney film.

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Andrew Dutton walked main off earlier than Webster, who hit a two-run homer within the first, took an unsightly swing on the primary pitch. It was so dangerous and out of character that he stepped out of the batter’s field and tapped his chest whereas apologizing to teach Jan Weisberg.

Webster did not miss the following pitch.

Connecting on a dangling curveball, he despatched his homer over the wall in left discipline to set off a wild celebration on the sphere and within the stands of Traditional Park.

As he rounded third and was greeted on the plate by his delirious teammates, a rowdy group of Sigma Chi fraternity brothers from the college who had stored the religion when issues regarded bleak danced within the aisles.

It was one other memorable second in a season stuffed with them for Birmingham-Southern and a crew bonded by adversity.

“Simply true grit,” mentioned Weisberg, whose seventeenth season on the college has introduced challenges he might have by no means imagined. “The combat in these guys is the story of the evening.”

Birmingham-Southern, which misplaced the nationwide title recreation in 2019, superior within the double-elimination tourney and can play Wisconsin-Whitewater on Sunday.

Primarily based on the wild scene exterior its constitution buses, it may be powerful for anybody from Birmingham-Southern to get a lot sleep.

After dropping the opener to Salve Regina on Friday, the identical day Birmingham-Southern formally closed its doorways for the primary time since 1856 resulting from monetary hardship, the Panthers have been dealing with a win-or-extinction state of affairs to maintain their season — and the college’s legacy — going.

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In contrast to Friday’s recreation, once they fell behind 7-0 earlier than rallying, the Panthers jumped to a 3-0 lead within the first on Webster’s two-run homer and Charlie Banks’ solo shot — each balls thudding off an indication past the left-center discipline wall promoting a free automobile wash for Lake County Captains followers.

However Randolph-Macon caught them within the seventh after which took the lead with three runs within the eighth, when the Panthers had two wild pitches and issues started to unravel to the purpose the place it regarded like Birmingham-Southern’s season and program have been each over.

Weisberg thought the more serious.

“You’ll be able to’t assist however have the sensation of — is that this how it is going to finish?” he mentioned. “However with all this crew has been by specifically, with all that we have had hanging over our heads, I am going to admit it occurred to me for a quick second in between innings.

“I began serious about what am I going to say? Am I going to maintain it collectively? And I instructed myself, cease, simply cease.”

There is not any margin for error, however the Panthers have not felt any strain for months. That is simple after what they have been by. As soon as the college’s determination was made, BSC’s gamers made their very own determination to complete robust.

Below Weisberg’s steadying steerage, Birmingham-Southern’s boys of summer time have been enjoying freely for months, unburdened between the foul traces after studying in late March their college was closing.

Baseball has pulled them collectively and pulled them by what some throughout the crew have described as like dropping a member of the family.

It has been an emotional journey for Birmingham-Southern gamers, mother and father, alums, college and everybody with any ties to the liberal arts faculty for the reason that announcement in March {that a} $30 million mortgage from the state of Alabama wasn’t coming and closure was obligatory.

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“At first, there was plenty of disappointment,” mentioned Cole Steadman, considered one of a number of gamers on the 2019 crew who got here to root on this particular version of Panthers. “We have been fairly devastated to listen to that the college was shutting down, however to see the group come collectively has been particular.”

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