MAY 8, 2014 – During its current 2014 season, the SPSU baseball team has created excitement in many ways across campus and beyond.
The Hornets, ranked 14th in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) under second-year Head Coach Marty Lovrich, has been on quite a roll lately. Southern Poly, one of the hottest teams in the nation with 18 wins in its last 20 games, claimed the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament title on May 3 in Montgomery, Ala., after winning four contests in as many days, thus earning an automatic bid to an NAIA National Championship Opening Round event that begins on Monday, May 12. The Hornets defeated defending national champion and No. 4-rated Faulkner University of Montgomery, Ala., which captured the SSAC regular-season crown, by the score of 6-3 for the conference tournament crown.
SPSU, with a 42-16 overall record, is making its seventh appearance in the last eight years at the NAIA national tournament. Additionally, the university now has earned four SSAC Tournament championships in the past 11 seasons and three in the last eight.
As team members have done on many game days throughout this past season, during the SSAC Tournament title game, the Hornets wore throwback uniforms – a bright orange jersey with “Tech” on the front and kelly green caps with “ST” on them, in reference to when the university was commonly known as Southern Tech.
“I told the guys before the game that I’ve received e-mails this year from [former] players who were here around the time when Southern Poly started the baseball program,” Lovrich said. “I guess they noticed we’ve been wearing the throwback uniforms a lot through some of the pictures that have been posted on our website or by watching games online. I had several guys comment that they appreciated our team doing that.”
Also while addressing his squad before the big game in Montgomery, Lovrich told his players, “Today we are playing not only for ourselves, but for a lot of people associated with the university. If you feel like you’re getting tired or whatever, keep in mind that you’re playing for a lot of people who gave their blood, sweat and tears for this program. You’re playing for everybody today.”
SPSU, the No. 3 seed in the SSAC Tournament, responded by beating top-seed Faulkner with a pair of three-run innings, solid pitching and flawless defense.
Another highlight of the Hornets’ late-season surge was Senior Day, May 25, which marked the final home intercollegiate athletic event ever for the university. In this game, Southern Poly erased an 8-3 deficit with a 10-run outburst in the eighth inning and wound up with a dramatic 13-11 conference victory over the University of Mobile. Following the win, SPSU Athletic Director Matt Griffin, who also coached and played baseball for the Hornets, was presented with a game ball.
“A couple of the players did come up and give me the game ball after the game,” said Griffin, who was at Sir Walter J. Kelly Sr. Memorial Field with his family. “I wasn’t expecting it at all, but it truly meant a lot to me because some of these guys I recruited and had a relationship with before I got out of coaching.
“The crowd was great and the fashion in which we won the game, scoring 10 runs in the eighth inning in our last-ever home event, was unbelievable. There couldn’t have been a more fitting way to go out and end athletics here at Southern Poly.”
The NAIA will announce the site where SPSU will compete in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round this Friday at 8 p.m. EDT. The selection show unveiling the first-round brackets and pairings can be viewed live at www.naia.org.