DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Faulkner battled from behind to take a late lead, but couldn't hold it and fell 5-4 to Rio Grande here Tuesday afternoon in the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round tournament.
The second-seeded Eagles (39-20) try to stay alive in the Daytona Beach grouping Wednesday when it faces St. Thomas (Fla.). If Faulkner wins early Wednesday it will play another elimination game Wednesday night.
Faulkner took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a Michael Clayton RBI single, but the third-seeded Red Storm (49-11) got run-scoring hits from Christian Frias and Francisco Ramirez to take a 3-1 lead into the sixth. The Eagles got closer in their half of the inning when Justin Jones and Clayton had back-to-back doubles, cutting the margin to 3-2.
In the top of the seventh Faulkner regained the lead when, with the bases loaded, Jones singled through the left side to score two and give the Eagles a 4-3 lead.
The advantage held up until the bottom of the eighth when Faulkner starter Jacob Simmons (11-3) was touched up for a pair of runs. With one out Michael Lynch singled in the tying run for the Red Storm, and Ryan Yakura followed with a sacrifice fly that scored the go-ahead run. Winning pitcher Tyler Schunk (12-2), who struck out 10 and allowed only six hits, retired the Eagles in order in the ninth. Simmons went the distance and took the loss for Faulkner, scattering eight hits while striking out three.
Rio Grande plays the winner of Tuesday's late game between top-seed and group host Embry-Riddle and fourth-seed Union (Ky.) Wednesday afternoon at 1.