Birmingham-Southern keeps inspiring, magical season alive with walk-off win at D-3 World Series

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Birmingham-Southern players leave the field following practice Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Eastlake, Ohio. On Friday, the Panthers will continue an unexpected, uplifting season that has captured hearts across the country by playing in the Division III World Series on the same day the liberal arts college founded on the eve of the Civil War shuts its doors.

Sue Ogrocki, AP Photo

By Tom Withers

EASTLAKE, Ohio (AP) — Birmingham-Southern is still swinging.

Now playing for a school that technically no longer exists, the Panthers kept their hopes of winning a national championship alive on Saturday with a thrilling 9-7 comeback win over Randolph-Macon in the Division III World Series.

Jackson Webster hit a walk-off, two-run homer in the ninth inning for Birmingham-Southern, which squandered a 4-0 lead, fell behind 7-4 and then rallied to tie it with three runs in the eighth.

In the ninth, Andrew Dutton walked leading off before Webster, who hit a two-run homer in the first, connected on an 0-2 pitch, driving it over the left-field wall to set off a wild celebration on the field and in the stands of Classic Park.

It was another memorable moment in a season full of them for Birmingham-Southern and a team that won’t give in.

Birmingham-Southern advances in the double-elimination tourney and will play the loser between Salve Regina and Wisconsin-Whitewater on Sunday.

After losing their opener to Salve Regina on Friday, the same day Birmingham-Southern officially closed its doors for the first time since 1856, the Panthers were facing a win-or-extinction situation to keep their season — and the school’s legacy — going.

Unlike Friday’s game, when they fell behind 7-0 before rallying, the Panthers jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first on Webster’s two-run homer and Charlie Banks’ solo shot — both balls thudding off a sign beyond the left-center field wall advertising a free car wash for Lake County Captains fans.

There’s no margin for error, but the Panthers aren’t feeling any pressure. This is easy after what they’ve been through.

Under coach Jan Weisberg’s staying guidance, Birmingham-Southern’s boys of summer have been playing freely for months, unburdened between the foul lines after learning their school was closing.

Baseball has pulled them together and pulled them through what some within the team have described as like losing a family member.

It’s been an emotional journey for Birmingham-Southern players, parents, alums, faculty and everyone with any ties to liberal arts college since the announcement in March that a $30 million loan from the state of Alabama wasn’t coming and closure was necessary.

“At the start, there was a lot of sadness. We were pretty devastated to hear that the school was shutting down, but to see the community come together has been special.”

 

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