Baseball Wins Outright SAC Title In Dramatic Fashion


SALISBURY, N.C. -- Catawba won a dramatic opening game of Saturday's South Atlantic Conference baseball doubleheader against Tusculum then held on in game two to post the sweep at Newman Park.  The 11th-ranked Catawba Indians improve to 35-10 overall and 23-6 in the SAC.  The Pioneers fall to 27-16 and 18-11.

Tusculum didn't trail game one until Craig Brooks (Monroe, N.C./Parkwood HS) lofted a sacrifice fly to centerfield in the bottom of the ninth to plate Blake Houston (Mt. Ulla, N.C./S. Rowan SH) with the winning run.  It clinched the outright SAC Championship for the Indians, their third straight and eighth in the past 12 years.

The Pioneers had snapped a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth on a one-out double from Chris Waylock.  Ryan McClintock (Matthews, N.C./Providence HS) avoided further damage getting a ground out to strand two runners.

A walk to pinch-hitter Sam Laws (Statesville, N.C./W. Iredell/Surry CC) opened the Catawba ninth then Houston was hit by a pitch.  After a strikeout, the Pioneers decided to intentionally walk Will Albertson (Sophia, N.C./Randleman HS/Campbell) to load the bases.  Albertson had homered in his first two at bats earlier in the game for the second straight day.

With the bases loaded, T.J. Wharton (Lutz, Fla./Bishop McLaughlin HS/Guilford Tech) was hit by a pitch to plate the tying run.  Brooks followed with his sacrifice fly to give the Indians the walk-off win.

Tusculum grabbed an early 2-0 lead on a pair of unearned runs in the first.  Kevin Victoriano had a sacrifice fly and Waylock a RBI single.  Albertson twice cut the Pioneer lead to one with solo homers in the first and fourth innings.

Waylock hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh to put the Pioneers up 4-2, but the Indians rallied to tie in the bottom half.  Malachi Hanes (Charlotte, N.C./Butler HS) drew a one-out walk and went to third on a single by Chance Bowden (Salisbury, N.C./Salisbury HS).  Both would end up scoring on wild pitches to tie the game and set up the dramatic ninth inning.

Albertson was the only Indian with more than one hit and his two home runs leave him just one behind the school record of 24 set by David Trexler and Jerry Sands.  Jeremiah Tullidge had three hits for Tusculum and Waylock had two hits and three RBI.

McClintock (3-0) earned the win for Catawba out of the pen.  He allowed a run off two hits in an inning and a third.  Connor Johnson (Rockwell, N.C./E. Rowan HS) threw six innings for the Indians and gave up just one earned run on six hits with seven strikeouts.  Devan Watts (4-2) took the loss for the Pioneers as he entered to face Houston in the ninth.

The Indians broke a scoreless tie in game two with a three-run third.  Back-to-back doubles by Grayland Fowler (Moore, S.C./Duncan HS) and Houston produced the first run and Austin Stilley (Thomasville, N.C./Ledford HS) singled them home for the 3-0 lead.

Tusculum answered over the next two innings.  Jeovanny Tolentino and Jim Tolle collected two-out RBI hits in the fourth and Victoriano had a two-out single in the fifth that brought in the tying run.  Catawba retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth.  Albertson doubled home the go ahead run and Brooks doubled him home with two outs.

The Indians turned to Brooks in relief in the sixth and he danced around two hits and a walk to allow just one run in the frame.  Jalen Shuffler doubled to greet Brooks and Tolentino walked.  Catawba got an out on Shuffler at the plate, but Nick Rodriguez followed with a single to cut the deficit to 5-4.  The Indians got out of the inning on a double play ground out to short and Brooks sat down the side in the seventh to notch his first save.

Brooks had three hits at the plate in game two in addition to his save.  Will Beeson (Advance, N.C./Davie Co. HS) picked up the win and moved to 1-0 as he came on to get the final out of the fifth.

Shuffler and Rodriguez had two hits for Tusculum.  Michael Scott (3-2) took the loss for the Pioneers.  He allowed two runs on four hits in two and two-thirds innings. 

Catawba will return to action on Friday at the SAC Tournament in Forest City, N.C.  The Indians will play the noon game.

Game 1 Box

Game 2 Box

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