Houston Homers Twice as Baseball Stays Unbeaten at SAC Tournament


FOREST CITY, N.C. -- Catawba outlasted Tusculum to advance to Monday's final undefeated after claiming a 10-7 win at the 2015 South Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament on Sunday afternoon at McNair Field.  The top-seeded and 12th-ranked Catawba Indians improve to 38-10 and need just one win to claim its second straight tourney title.  The Pioneers fall to 29-17 and will face Wingate later on Sunday for a chance to reach the final.

Blake Houston (Mt. Ulla, N.C./S. Rowan HS) hit a pair of home runs and drove in three to pace the Catawba offense.  Malachi Hanes (Charlotte, N.C./Butler HS) and Dylan Richardson (Randleman, N.C./Randleman HS/Appalachian St.) joined Houston with three hits on the afternoon.  Catawba, as a team, hammered out 17 hits.

The Indians jumped out quickly with five runs in the bottom of the first.  Houston and Hanes led off with singles and Will Albertson (Sophia, N.C./Randleman HS/Campbell) drove them in to break the Catawba record for RBI in a season with his 85th and 86th of the year.  Before the inning was over, T.J. Wharton (Lutz, Fla./Bishop McLaughlin HS/Guilford Tech), Chance Bowden (Salisbury, N.C./Salisbury HS) and Luke Setzer (Salisbury, N.C./E. Rowan HS) had also driven in a run.

Houston connected on a two-run homer in the fourth to push the Catawba lead to 7-1, but the Pioneers rallied back.  Tusculum knocked out Indian starter Connor Johnson (Rockwell, N.C./E. Rowan HS) with a four-run fifth to get back in the game.

An error started the frame, while J.J. Wesley followed with a bunt single and Andrew Bowerman a single that got two runs in on the play thanks to another Indian error.  Creighton Wilke doubled home two runs with one out and Catawba went to Avery Bowles (Thomasville, N.C./E. Davidson HS), who got a strike out and ground out to end the inning.

Catawba added two runs in the seventh as Richardson doubled home a run and Setzer singled him home.  The Pioneers got those runs back in the eighth.  After a pair of two-out walks, Jeovanny Tolentino was able to single in a pair of runs on the first at bat against Ryan McClintock (Matthews, N.C./Providence HS) before the senior got a ground out to end the inning.

Houston put the Indians up 10-7 with a solo home run to lead off the eighth.  McClintock worked around a hit batter and a single in the ninth to retire John Topelski , the tying run, on a ground out to end the game. 

Bowles (3-1) got the win in relief of Johnson, who allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits over four and a third innings.  Bowles gave up two runs on just one hit with two walks and three punch outs.  McClintock locked up his eighth save with an inning and two-thirds of scoreless relief. 

Albertson, Setzer and Craig Brooks (Monroe, N.C./Parkwood HS) followed the trio with three hits with a pair of hits on the day.  Albertson and Setzer each had two RBI.

Bowerman and Jalen Shuffler both had two hits for the Pioneers.  Shuffler had a solo homer in the second.  McKenly Berry (4-6) took the loss for Tusculum has he only recorded one out and gave up five runs on five hits.     

Catawba will face either Tusculum or Wingate on Monday in the final.  The Championship Game will begin at 1 pm.  A second game would follow if necessary.

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