Baseball

Almond's Walk Off Grand Slam Caps Baseball's Comeback Over Mars Hill

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SALISBURY, N.C. -- Sophomore Zach Almond (Richfield, N.C./N. Stanly/UNCG) hit a walk off grand slam to lift host Catawba to an improbable 19-16 win in 12 innings over Mars Hill in South Atlantic Conference baseball action on Friday night at Newman Park.  The Catawba Indians rallied from a 15-6 deficit after three and half innings to improve to 18-11 overall and 8-5 in the SAC.  The Lions fall to 22-11 and 7-6.

Almond's final swing came on a 3-2 pitch and was a blast to left center that tied the school record with eight RBI in a game.  It was his second home run of the night to go along with a triple and a single.  His two-run triple tied the game at 15 in the eighth.

Catawba pounded out 20 hits in the win and got homers from Almond, Dylan Richardson (Randleman, N.C./Randleman/Appalachian St.), Jake Kimble (Concord, N.C./Mt. Pleasant/Liberty) and Will Albertson (Sophia, N.C./Randleman/Campbell).  Chance Bowden (Salisbury, N.C./Salisbury) had three hits and scored four runs, while Bryce Fowler (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood/Presbyterian) had four RBI.  Malachi Hanes (Charlotte, N.C./Butler) also scored four runs.

Mars Hill dominated early, building its nine-run lead with a six-run third and a seven-run fourth.  Dalton Eisenbath drove in three over those innings, while Evan Rogers and Dylan Powers hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth.  Rayshelon Carolina capped those innings with a two-run single and the 15-6 edge.

Fowler gave the Indians a spark in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run double with two outs that made it 15-9.  Kimble's solo shot in the fifth cut the margin to 15-10 and Catawba climbed within 15-13 in the sixth after a leadoff homer from Albertson and a two-run shot from Almond.  Almond's triple in the eighth tied it scoring Hanes, who had struck out, but reached on a wild pitch, and Bowden, who had doubled.

D.J. Laxton (Asheboro, N.C./E. Randolph) threw four shutout innings to allow the Indians to rally.  He was touched up for four runs (three earned) when he entered in the fourth, but kept the Lions silent after that.  Avery Bowles (Thomasville, N.C./E. Davidson) got the final out of the eighth with a runner on second and Bryan Blanton (Albemarle, N.C./Albemarle) struck out Powers with runners at second and third in the ninth.

The Lions retook the lead in the 12th using a pair of walks and a couple stolen bases by Rogers, who scored on an infield single by Brett Brubaker.  Blanton worked out of bases loaded jam, getting a fly out to end the frame without further damage.

After a strikeout to start the Catawba 12th, Hanes worked a walk after being down 1-2 in the count.  Bowden rifled a 2-2 pitch to right center and Fowler was walked intentionally to load the bases.  Almond had fouled off a 3-1 pitch before launching his winning home run with a full count.

Blanton (1-1) grabbed the win, going three and a third innings and allowing a run on just one hit.  He walked four and fanned six, including the side in the 10th.  Richardson joined Bowden with three hits for Catawba.

Carolina had four hits for Mars Hill and Brubaker three in a 18-hit Lion attack.  Drayden Williams (5-2), who had been the only effective pitcher for Mars Hill, took the loss.  He would give up six runs on five hits with six strikeouts over five and a third innings.

The teams will wrap up the three-game series with a 1 pm doubleheader on Saturday.

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