Baseball

Nester's Grand Slam Lifts Catawba over No. 19 Mount Olive

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SALISBURY, N.C. – Catawba opened its 2019 baseball home slate in grandiose fashion on a beautiful spring-like day in early February Wednesday at Newman Park.

The Indians staved off a ninth-inning rally, improving to 4-1 on the season and handing the Trojans their first loss in four games this year.

In the bottom of the seventh, tied at 5-5 with No. 19 Mount Olive, Jacob Nester stepped to the plate with bases loaded and two outs. With the count in his favor, he turned on the 2-0 pitch from Kyle Davis and smashed a liner to right center, barely clearing the 18-foot high fence for a go-ahead grand slam. In his previous three seasons and first four games this year, Nester went deep just once.

A defensive error by the Indians extended the visitor’s first inning, Mount Olive cashed in with three runs, grabbing the early 3-0 advantage.

Catawba responded with its first of two four-run innings in the second. After the first run crossed the plate on a double play, the Indians strung together three-consecutive hits to move in front 4-3.

A solo home run by JT Stone knotted the game at 4-4 and that is where it remained until the top of the sixth.

The Trojans knocked Catawba’s starting pitcher out of the game with a back-to-back singles by the first two hitters of the frame. DJ Laxton relieved Shepherd on the mound and surrendered a double to the first man he faced, giving the lead back to Mount Olive.With no outs and runners on second and third, Laxton retired the next three batters, keeping his squad in the contest.

With a man on and two outs in the home half of the same inning, Nester walked and Jeremy Simpson beat out a slow chopper to second to load the bases. Heath Mitchem drew a four-pitch walk, forcing in Joe Butts with the equalizer.

After a shutdown inning by the Indians’ bullpen, they loaded the bases in front of Nester with a single, double and a base-on-balls, who gave his side a four-run cushion, heading to the eighth.

Solo home runs in the top of the ninth by Nate Estes and Joe Mason cut Catawba’s lead to 9-7, before Trent Montgomery fanned Stone to end the contest.

ON THE MOUND:
Hunter Shepherd started on the mound for Catawba and worked into the sixth, allowing two runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out five. Laxton relieved Shepherd and surrendered one hit in 1.2 scoreless frames, fanning two. Bryan Ketchie (1-0), retired both batters he faced, one by strikeout and picked up his first win of the season.

Nick DeCarlo started on the hill for the Trojans, allowing four runs on four hits and one walk in 1.2 innings pitched. Davis was saddled with the loss after three runs on two hits, walking one and fanning one in 0.2 innings.

LEADING THE INDIANS:
Henderson Lentz and Butts each went 3-for-5 at the plate. Jackson Raper and Nester registered two hit games apiece, with Nester driving in five.

LEADING THE TROJANS:
Estes, Logan Welch and Jett Swetland accounted for six of the teams 11 hits, with each collecting two. Swetland tallied three runs-batted-in.

UP NEXT:
Catawba hosts West Virginia State for a doubleheader Friday. First pitch of game one is 4 p.m.

HOW THEY SCORED:
Mount Olive first: (3-0) - Estes led off with a single up the middle and stole second. Base-on-balls by Zack Smith and Welch loaded the bases with two outs. Justin Lee reached on an error, scoring Estes. Smith and Welch crossed the plate when Swetland doubled off the centerfield wall.

Catawba second: Raper drove the first pitch of the inning through the left side of the infield and moved to second on Shepherd’s singled to center. Butts placed a perfect bunt between the mound and third, loading the bases with no outs. All three runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, with Raper recording the Indians first run. Cameron Morrison worked a walk, loading the bases again. Robbie Cowie grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, allowing Shepherd to score. Nester’s two-out single drove in Butts from third, evening the score at 3-3. Lentz singled through the left side putting runners on first and second. An infield single by Simpson singled to shortstop, scoring Nester.

Mount Olive third: (TIED 4-4): - Stone homered to right center.

Mount Olive sixth: (UMO 5-4): - Welch led off with a double to right, before being lifted for a pinch-runner, Gunner Tolston. Lee put runners on the corners with a single to right. Swetland drove in Tolston with a two-base hit to right.

Catawba sixth: (TIED 5-5): - Butts singled up the middle to lead off the inning and moved to second on a failed pick-off attempt. Nester walked and Lentz beat out an infield single to fill the bags with two outs. Simpson walked on four pitches, forcing Butts in from third.

Catawba seventh: (CAT 9-5): - Raper opened the frame with a single to right and advanced to third on Butts one-out double to center. Morrison worked a walk, loading the bases. Nester homered over the right center wall, scoring all four runs. Mount Olive ninth: (CAT 9-7) – Estes blasted a towering shot down the leftfield line for a solo homer. Mason homered to left.

FOLLOW CATAWBA SOCIALLY:
For up-to-date news, photos, videos and updates you can follow Catawba sports program online at gocatawbaindians.com or via @catawbabaseball and @catawbaindians.

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