Baseball

Baseball Wins SAC Tournament Title With Two One-Run Wins Over #12 Tusculum

Poole notched his first career save to get Catawba to a second championship game

WINGATE, NC -- Catawba knocked off top-seeded Tusculum twice on Sunday to take the championship of the 2009 South Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament at Ron Christopher Stadium on the campus of Wingate University.  The Catawba Indians won the second of the two games 4-3 after forcing game two with an 11-10 victory earlier in the day.  Catawba, now 35-16, secures a spot in the NCAA II Southeast Regional Tournament from May 14-17.  The 12th-ranked Pioneers fall to 36-16 and will await a possible at large bid to the post-season.

Nathan Furr (Albemarle, NC/W. Stanly HS) came on in the ninth to get the save after winning the opener with six strong innings in his first start of the season.  In the Pioneer ninth, Sean Finucane (Cortland, NY) singled with one out, bringing Furr into the game.  After an out, Sean Cotten (Mooresville, NC) singled and Jared Richmond (Fort Smith, AK) was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  Furr then struck out Tim Kellinger (Knoxville, MD) on three pitches to give the Indians the title.

After three scoreless innings, Tusculum jumped on top on Richmond’s two-run homerun with one out in the fourth.  Nate Grabowski (Pennellville, NY) had singled to open the inning and was sacrificed to second by Cotten.

Catawba would get on the board in the fifth.  Currie induced a double play after a leadoff single by Craige Lyerly (Salisbury, NC/E. Rowan HS), but hit Ryan Query (Kannapolis, NC/Brown HS) with a pitch.  Chris Ahearn (Charlotte, NC/Providence HS) found the gap in left center to plate Query from first to cut the Pioneer lead in half.

The Indians tied the game in the seventh as Query launched the first pitch over the scoreboard in left to open the inning, igniting a three-run frame to give Catawba the lead.  Ahearn and Kevin McMillan (Salisbury, NC/N. Rowan) followed with singles and Josh Hohn’s (Greensboro, NC/S. Guilford) bunt single was thrown away at first allowing two runs to score.

Tusculum got a run back in the eighth.  Richmond led off with a double, Matt Ford (Jonesborough, TN) walked and Paul Finger (Lincolnton, NC) sacrificed the runners into scoring position.  Pinch-hitter Eric Conley (Knoxville, TN) grounded out to short to plate a run to get the Pioneers within a run to set up the final inning heroics. 

Blake Ketner (Davidson, NC/NW Cabarrus HS) made his second start of the tournament and tossed six innings to improve to 10-3 on just two days rest.  He allowed a pair of runs off seven hits with six strikeouts.  Tusculum closer Rob Currie (St. Charles, IL) made the start for Tusculum and pitched into the seventh before leaving after Query’s homer with the game tied at 2-2.  He allowed seven hits and struck out six. 

The Indians overcame four errors and left a dozen on base.  Tusculum also stranded 12 runners and hit into four double plays.  The single by Lyerly in the fifth extended his hitting streak to 32 games, just one shy of the Catawba record.  It also tied him with David Thomas with a school-record 101 hits on the year.

Catawba forced the second championship game with an 11-10 win to start the day.  Tusculum battled until the final out, cutting an 8-4 deficit to 8-6 in the eighth and an 11-6 deficit to 11-10 in the final frame.  Indian senior Cliff Poole (Greensboro, NC/NE Guilford HS) got the final two outs to earn his first career save. 

Ricky Feliz (Miami, FL) led off the Tusculum ninth with a solo homerun and Cotten had a two-run to trim the Catawba lead to 11-9.  Richmond tripled before Poole came in to get a groundout and pop up to end the game.

Tusculum pulled within 8-6 in the eighth and had the bases loaded with no outs.  Brett Hatley (Salisbury, NC/W. Rowan HS) got the Indians out of major trouble by getting a pop up and a double play ball (pitcher to catcher to first) to prevent further damage.  Catawba then added three important runs in its eighth, the last on a sacrifice fly by Corey Parker (Kernersville, NC/Glenn HS).

Furr went six innings to get the win.  The Indian closer was making his first start of the year and allowed four runs off seven hits with four strikeouts.  He kept the Pioneers off the board over the first three innings as Catawba built a 3-0 lead.

Cameron White (Columbia, SC/Cedar Ridge HS) had four hits to lead a 14-hit Catawba attack.  McMillan had a pair of hits and collected four RBI, including a two-run single in the sixth as Catawba answered three Pioneer runs in the fifth to go up 8-4. 

Grabowski was one of two players with four hits for Tusculum.  He had singles in both the eighth and ninth innings and hit a two-run homer in the fifth that had the Pioneers within 5-4.  Richmond also had four hits in a 16-hit attack.

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