Lynchburg Hornets win 2021 ODAC Baseball Championship with walk-off

LYNCHBURG, VA. – After nine years and 327 games later, University of Lynchburg baseball is back on top of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference as the Hornets defeated Shenandoah University 9-8 in walk-off fashion on Fox Field Saturday afternoon to claim Lynchburg’s ninth title in program history.

Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth, PJ Alvanos and Avery Combs stepped up when their names were called. After sophomore Avery Neaves led off the frame with a hit by a pitch, Alvanos uncorked an 0-1 fastball over the right field wall to knot the game at 8-8. Freshman Gavin Collins followed the homer with a single up the middle and then was later bunted over to second by Carrson Atkins to set up Combs’ heroics. The hometown kid came through off the bench for the Hornets as the senior lined a single to right center to score Collins and send the Lynchburg dugout into a frenzy.

Game 3 began like each of the preceding games with early runs. Shenandoah’s Frankie Ritter led off the game with a single and later came around to score on a Pearce Bucher RBI-groundout to put SU up 1-0. In the bottom half, Lynchburg responded with a manufactured run as a Kinston Carson RBI-groundout plated Cameron Lane to tie the game at 1-1.

Shenandoah responded with three more runs in the top of the second as consecutive RBI-singles and a fielder’s choice plated three SU runners. Lynchburg retaliated once more in the bottom half with three runs of its own. Lane hit a two-run triple to right and then Garrett Jackson drove in Lane with a single to knot the contest at 4-4.

After a Shenandoah homer from Matt Moon in the third, the SU bullpen held the Lynchburg offense off the board for four straight innings and in the sixth and seventh, it added to its lead with a lone run in each frame to take an 8-4 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, Lynchburg chipped away at the four-run deficit as Carson scored on a wild pitch and then Atkins plated Neaves, who reached on a hit by pitch, to make it a two-run game.

Grayson Thurman came on in relief of Carson in the fifth and kept the SU bats at bay. The senior from Lynch Station allowed just one earned run on five hits and punched out seven to earn the win. Over the final two frames, Thurman struck out four of his seven batters and kept the SU offense off the board to help set up the ninth inning heroics.

“Grit”, said head coach Lucas Jones, “the one word to describe this team. They never gave up at any point and it showed.”

Lynchburg is now second in conference history with nine league titles, as the Hornets sit only behind Bridgewater College. With the win, the Hornets received the ODAC’s automatic qualifier bid to the NCAA Division III tournament and tied the program record with 34 wins.

The championship is Lynchburg’s first since the 2012 season when the Hornets defeated Bridgewater College 2-1 at Lynchburg City Stadium in a double-elimination tournament. It is the Hornets ninth conference title and their 17th overall appearance in the championship.

Carson, Neaves, and Zack Potts were named to the all-tournament team with Alvanos who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. They were joined by Natty Soloman and Ray Tricarico from Eastern Mennonite; Jeffrey Snider and Brett Tharp from Bridgewater; and Colby Martin, Haden Madagen and Frankie Ritter from Shenandoah.

University of Lynchburg athletics has now set a new school record for ODAC titles in a single year with baseball’s title being the eighth in 2021.