April 9, 2017
Baseball Rallies Twice to Take Two From Mars Hill
MARS HILL, N.C. -- Catawba rallied for a pair of wins to sweep Sunday’s South Atlantic Conference baseball doubleheader from host Mars Hill at Henderson Field. The Catawba Indians claimed a 7-6 eight-inning win in the opener then stunned the Lions with an 11-8 victory in game two. Catawba, ranked 29th, improves to 27-11 overall and 13-5 in the SAC. Mars Hill falls to 23-19 and 9-9.
Catawba entered the final inning of game two down 8-5. Chance Bowden (Salisbury, N.C./Salisbury) and Nick Coble (Concord, N.C./Mt. Pleasant/Florence-Darling) doubled to start the frame. Back-to-back walks forced home a run before a Lion error allowed the tying runs to score.
Malachi Hanes (Charlotte, N.C./Butler) followed the error with a single that scored Kyle Smith (Greensboro, N.C./Grimsley) with the go-ahead run. Zach Almond (Richfield, N.C./N. Stanly/UNCG) capped the outburst with a two-run double.
Bryan Blanton (Albemarle, N.C./Albemarle) entered with a man on first in the bottom of the seventh and allowed a single to get the tying run to the plate with none out. Blanton struck out the next three batters to grab his second save of the day and 10th of the season.
Catawba jumped on Mars Hill in the opener as Almond and Hanes hit back-to-back homers for a 4-0 lead. Almond hit a three-run shot in front on Hanes’ solo effort. Mars Hill got single runs in the first two innings then jumped on top 6-4 after Gray McCurry’s three-run homer in the third.
After giving up the home run to the first batter he faced, Connor Johnson (Rockwell, N.C./E. Rowan) settled down and sat down 11 straight to keep the Lions off the board and allow Catawba to rally. Coble pulled the Indians even on his two-run homer in the fifth.
Johnson’s streak ended with a leadoff walk to Hunter Merrill in the seventh, but the junior retired the next two before picking off Merrill to send the game to extra innings.
With one out in the eighth, Ben Bomberger (Manheim, Pa./Manheim Central/Coastal Carolina) drew a walk and stole second. He moved to third on a fly out by Jeremy Simpson (Cleveland, N.C./W. Rowan). Luke Setzer (Salisbury, N.C./E. Rowan) put Catawba on top with his two-out single down the right field line.
Mars Hill wouldn’t go quietly in the bottom half off Blanton. Matt Honeycutt led off with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third. The next two Lion batters walked, but Blanton struck out the final two batters to end the game.
Johnson improved to 6-1 with the win. He went four and two-thirds innings, allowing the home run with a walk and six strikeouts. Setzer went 5-for-5 in the opener and added two more hits in the nightcap as he finished 7-for-10. Almond racked up three RBI in each game.
Next up for Catawba is a trip to face fourth-ranked Mount Olive on Tuesday at 5 pm.
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