The comeback gave head coach Rusty Stroupe the 600th win of his career.
"All it really means is that I'm getting old," joked Stroupe, who has gone 600-473-1 in career stops at North Greenville, Brevard, Lander and Gardner-Webb. "I do feel blessed to have been involved with so many great kids during my time. Being around 18-21 year olds perpetually keeps me young, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to coach here at Gardner-Webb."
Gardner-Webb (22-13-1, 7-9 Big South) took advantage of Presbyterian miscues to go up early in the game, as an error in the first kept the inning alive and allowed Benji Jackson to trot home on a double play that should have ended the frame - giving GWU a 1-0 lead.
Presbyterian (18-21, 4-12 Big South) tied the game with an RBI triple from catcher Nate Horton in the top of the second, but saw Gardner-Webb go up 2-1 on a sacrifice fly from John Harris that allowed Scott Coleman to score after leading off the inning by reaching on an error.
The 'Dogs led off the fifth with infield singles from Jackson and Daniel Merck, and Jackson scored on Jake Watts' single through the left side for a 3-1 edge. A deep fly ball from Dusty Quattlebaum nearly left the yard, but was caught - and Presbyterian starter Buck Mosteller ended the threat with a strikeout to keep GWU within striking distance.
The Blue Hose used some two-out magic to take the lead in the sixth. Tony Micklon led off the inning by walking, but GWU starter Emilio Pagan got a fly ball out from Kenny Bryant before giving way to the bullpen. Gabe Grammer greeted Brock Wilson with a soft single to center, but Wilson recovered to get the second out of the inning on another fly ball.
Tyler Hill coaxed a two-out walk to load the bases however, and a wild pitch and throwing error after the play allowed Micklon and Grammer to score and tie the game. A swinging bunt single back to Wilson then allowed Hill to score to put the Blue Hose up 4-3. A fielder's choice ground ball didn't produced the third out, and allowed Andrew Williams to reach and put two men on base. Mack Hite followed with a bloop RBI single that fell in front of the GWU defense in right field to make the score 5-3 and Brandon Paul rolled a single through the left side for a 6-3 lead before Wilson could work out of the inning.
Gardner-Webb got a two-out single from Merck to trim the lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth, but went quietly in the seventh to leave the Blue Hose in control.
Presbyterian called on relief ace Chandler Knox in the eighth, and Gardner-Webb would make its move. John Harris belted a one-out double into the left field corner and moved to second on an Aaron Miller single. Miller swiped second on a strikeout to get into scoring position as the tying run, and Merck came through again with a single into the hole at shortstop to cut the lead to 6-5. Watts' RBI single to center tied the score, 6-6, and Quattlebaum followed with the game's biggest hit - ripping a two-run double down the opposite field line to left to put the 'Dogs up 8-6. Knox recovered to get the third out, but Gardner-Webb had regained momentum for good.
Micklon led off the ninth with a double, and moved to third on a passed ball - but could not score on a shallow fly ball to right. Reliever Jeff Howell then fanned Grammer for the second out, before Horton singled up the middle off of southpaw relief man Brett Stackhouse to make the score 8-7. Pinch hitter Brad Zebedis stepped in with pinch runner Nathan Chong on first - but Chong got too far off the bag on an 0-1 pitch from closer Adam Izokovic that Harris blocked well. Harris fired to first to pick off Chong to end the game.
"You hate to give up the big [sixth] inning," said Stroupe. "Our guys did a good job of putting that behind them, staying focused and making a run. That was a great rally in the eighth for us, and a big win at home. Presbyterian is a much, much better team than their record."
Wilson (4-0) earned the win in relief, despite allowing five hits and four runs in 2.2 innings of work. Izokovic picked up his fifth save with just a third of an inning pitched. Pagan went 5.1 innings, allowed five hits and allowed two runs (two strikeouts) in a no decision start.
Gardner-Webb got three hits apiece from Merck (3-for-5, 2 RBI) and Watts (3-for-5, 2 RBI), which paced a 12-hit attack. Jackson (2-for-4, 2 runs) and Miller (2-for-3, 2 runs) also had multiple hits in the game.
Presbyterian had 12 hits as well, with Horton (3-for-5, 3B, 2 RBI) leading the way. Knox (3-2) was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs on five hits in 1.0 inning out of the pen. Mosteller lasted 7.0 innings, threw 123 pitches and allowed two earned runs (four total) on seven hits (five strikeouts).
The two teams will wrap up the series on Saturday with a doubleheader that will begin at 1:00 pm at John Henry Moss Stadium / Bill Masters Field.