Baseball Gets Past Carson-Newman Then Falls To Tusculum In SAC Championship Game


HICKORY, NC -- The Tusculum College Pioneers scored a 4-2 victory over No. 23 Catawba College to win the Championship of the 2008 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament on Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium. Tusculum, ranked No. 29 in NCAA II, improves 38-12 and claims the league's automatic bid into the NCAA II South Region Tournament in May. Catawba, now 37-16, will await a possible at-large berth.

Tusculum scored all its runs in the fourth inning, but held on behind the complete game by Rob Currie (St. Charles, IL). The junior scattered eight hits and allowed two runs in going the distance for the first time this year. He walked three and recorded eight strikeouts.

Catawba went on top in the second inning as Ryan Query (Kannapolis, NC/Brown HS) and Craige Lyerly (Salisbury, NC/E. Rowan HS) opened the frame with hits. A one-out walk loaded the bases and Bubba Morris (Spencer, NC/N. Rowan HS) brought home the initial run with a ground out to third.

Indian starter Blake Ketner (Davidson, NC/NW Cabarrus HS) shut out the Pioneers until the fourth when he ran into trouble after a pair of walks to start the inning. Eric Conley (Knoxville, TN) hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game and Sean Cotten (Mooresville, NC) followed with a double to put Tusculum on top 2-1.

The Pioneers would add two more in the fourth. Paul Finger (Lincolnton, NC) got one home on a chopper up the middle and the final run of the frame scored on an errant thrown on a ball hit by Aaron Hudgins (Kingsport, TN).

Catawba got a run back in the fifth. Morris singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on David Thomas' (Winston-Salem, NC/Ledford HS) check-swing single. Chad Baker (Jamestown, NC/Ragsdale HS) looped a double to center to cut the lead in half, but after an intentional walk to Jerry Sands (Clayton, NC/Smithfield-Selma HS), Query grounded out to end the frame.

The Indians had one last chance in the ninth as Brett Hatley (Salisbury, NC/W. Rowan HS) led off with a single, but Currie retired the final three batters to finish off his complete game. Hatley kept Catawba within striking distance with four and a third innings of scoreless relief. He allowed one hit and struck out four.

Earlier, Catawba had advanced to the finals with a 14-4 win over Carson-Newman (37-16) in an elimination game Sunday morning.  The Indians hit three home runs and every player in the starting lineup had at least one hit in the win.  Morris went four-for-four with two doubles and three runs batted in to lead Catawba's 20-hit attack.

Trailing 2-1, the Catawba Indians took control with a four-run second inning highlighted by back-to-back home runs by Matt Kepley (Greensboro, NC/Ragsdale HS) and Thomas.  Catawba then pushed their advantage to 9-2 with three more runs in the sixth inning which included a two-run home run from Sands, his league-leading 21st of the season.

Catawba then put the game away with four runs in the top of the ninth inning.  Kepley added three hits and three RBI for Catawba while Carson-Newman's Mills Rogers (Simpsonville, SC) drove in two runs to lead the Eagles.

Catawba's Tim Smith (Walnut Cove, NC/S. Stokes HS), making his first start in three weeks, settled down after a shaky first inning and tossed four straight shutout frames as the Indians began to build their lead.  The win improved the senior to 5-2 and gave him a Catawba record-tying 30th career victory.

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