Baseball Punches Regional Berth Topping Newberry For SAC Tourney Title


KODAK, Tenn. -- Catawba capped a perfect weekend at the Pilot Flying J South Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament at Smokies Stadium, finishing undefeated in its four games to claim its eighth conference tournament title. Monday, Catawba downed top-seeded Newberry for the second time in as many days, winning 3-2 in the championship game. The win improves the 11th-ranked Catawba Indians to 42-12 and secures a spot in the NCAA II Regionals, which begin on May 16. The Wolves, now 41-14, will look for one of three at-large berth for the regionals.

Sawyer Strickland (8-2) shook off a shaky to start to pitch into the sixth for the win. He allowed a pair of runs in the first then settled down retiring 12 of the final 15 batters he faced before exiting with two on and two out in the sixth. Only one of the two runs against Strickland was earned.

Catawba took the lead in the top of the sixth against a tiring Josh Bookbinder (9-2), who had pitched Friday’s opener for the Wolves. An error started the inning and Catawba cashed in. A single by Heath Mitchem and a walk to Jeremy Simpson loaded the bases. Tournament MVP Hunter Shepherd singled home a run and a grounder to third by Joe Butts brought in the tying run. Jackson Raper delivered the hit the drove home Simpson with the go-ahead run.

Catawba’s pen made that one-run lead hold up. Riley Myers got a strikeout to end the sixth then hurled a perfect seventh. Newberry got the tying run to scoring position in the eighth after a hit and a sacrifice, but Myers got a foul pop up then another strikeout to end the frame.

Newberry threatened again in the ninth off Peyton Williams, who posted his 10th save. Pinch-hitter Nick Butler singled to start the ninth. After a strikeout and a walk, Williams retired the final two batters on fly outs to end the game.

Shepherd and Raper each had two hits in the game. Catawba had just six hits for the contest. No Newberry player had more than one hits, finishing with seven as a team.

Catawba will await regional field, which will be announced on May 12. The top two teams in the region will host a three-team double elimination tournament with the winners advancing to a best two-of-three super regional at the site of the highest remaining seed.

Highlights Catawba vs. Newberry:

Hunter Shepherd Interview:

Jim Gantt Interview:

SAC Championships Awards Ceremony:

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