The Runnin' Bulldogs (32-27) advance to the Big South Tournament Conference semifinals for the second season in a row and will play No. 3 seed Liberty at 10:00 am Friday at Willard Stadium.
The Flames (40-18) won its first two tournament games, meaning Gardner-Webb would have to beat Liberty twice on Friday to advance to Saturday's championship game.
Gardner-Webb broke open a scoreless game in the middle innings, plating three runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and three more in the sixth to stake itself to a comfortable lead. GWU pushed across three more runs in the eighth for its final offense of the day.
Hilton delivers to the plate Thursday afternoon. (BigSouthPhotos.com)
The 'Dogs loaded the bases in the fourth with one out after Ryan Hodge was intentionally walked to set up a potential double play. Scott Johnson would not cooperate with the defensive strategy, however, doubling down the third base line to drive in a pair for a 2-0 lead.
Will Canady drove home the third run of the inning on an RBI groundout to shortstop before Radford starter Tyler Costello could work out of the jam.
Dusty Quattlebaum pushed the lead to 5-0 with two outs in the fifth, belting his ninth home run of the season over the fence in right center. The long ball scored Adam McFarland, who led off the bottom of the fifth with his second single of the day.
The Runnin' Bulldogs put the game away in the sixth, with Benji Jackson's two-run double to left center the biggest blow in a three-run inning.
Jackson legged out an infield single to lead off the bottom of the eighth and came around to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Scott Coleman to give Gardner-Webb a 9-0 lead. Quattlebaum then belted his second two-run shot over the fence in right center to cap the scoring.
Gardner-Webb tied its best effort hitting the baseball in Big South Tournament play, rapping out 16 safeties to match the mark it set last season against High Point and Radford in Lexington, Va.
Quattlebaum (3-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI) continued his surge at the plate, and has three home runs in three games so far in this year's event. McFarland (3-for-5, run), Jackson (2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI), Hodge (2-for-4, 2 runs) and Johnson (2-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI) also had multiple hits for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
The complete-game win for Hilton (7-3) was the first of his career and ties him for the team lead in wins this season. The Jacksonville, Fla., native struck out three and allowed just one extra base hit all game. Hilton threw just 90 pitches (three strikeouts) in the game.
Radford got a pair of hits from Brett Mollenhauer (2-for-4) and a double in the ninth inning from Matt Hillsinger. Phil Bondi's bunt single in the third was the only other hit for the Highlanders (29-28-1).
Costello (7-3) took the loss, allowing eight runs on eight hits in 5.0 innings of work.
QUOTES FROM GARDNER-WEBB HEAD COACH RUSTY STROUPE
"I'm very proud of our effort overall today, but for Beau [Hilton] to go out and throw a complete-game four-hitter, wow. How can you ask anymore out of a freshman, especially when we needed to save our bullpen. You couldn't ask for anything more, and we supported him with some big hits."
"I have mixed emotions seeing all of those seniors for Radford play in their final game. I'm really going to miss playing against those guys, but they are so talented a part of me is happy not to have to play them anymore. I said so to the [seniors] I could get to after the game. A big part of me will miss competing against that group, they're a class bunch."