Baseball Off to Super Regional After Topping Young Harris


NEWBERRY, S.C. -- Catawba rallied from a five-run deficit to win the NCAA II Southeast Region 2 Tournament 7-5 over Young Harris on Saturday afternoon at Newberry College’s Smith Road Complex. The 11th-ranked Catawba Indians, now 45-12, move on to face North Greenville in next weekend’s Southeast Super Regional. The Mountain Lions wrap up their season at 36-21.

Young Harris took advantage of an Indian error to score five runs in the top of the fourth to break a scoreless deadlock. Catawba came right back with four in its half of the fourth then took the lead with a pair of runs in the fifth.

Zavier Lushington followed a leadoff error in the fourth with a two-run homer off Catawba starter Sawyer Strickland to notch the game’s first runs. After the home run, a walk, a single and a sacrifice got runners to second and third. One run scored on a wild pitch, while Tucker Greer singled home a run. T.J. Byrd singled home the final run off reliever Caleb Link.

Catawba wasted little time getting back into the game. Jeremy Simpson singled to lead off the fourth, while Hunter Shepherd and Joe Butts walked. Jackson Raper singled home the first run and Cameron Morrison added a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2. A ground out by Lee Poteat added another run. Heath Mitchem made it 5-4 with a bases loaded walk.

In the fifth, Shepherd led off with a double. Butts then lined a single to right that got under the glove of Lushington that plated Shepherd to tie the game and sent Butts to third. Raper put the Indians on top with a sacrifice fly. Catawba added an insurance run in the eighth as Bryce Butler led off with a double and scored on a single by Simpson.

Link (2-2) was masterful in relief of Strickland. After surrendering the single to Byrd, the junior put up three scoreless innings before giving way to Riley Myers in the eighth. The only batter reach after Byrd was Dahlton Cash, who singled with one-out in the fifth and was then erased on a double play. He sat down the last eight men he faced.

Myers gave up a hit to the first batter he faced in the eighth then got out of the inning when a grounder bounced off his glove and went straight to Butts for a 1-4-6-3 double play. Peyton Williams was set to enter for the ninth when a lightning strike delayed the game for nearly an hour. When Williams took the mound he posted two strikeouts and a ground ball to first for his 11th save.

Shepherd went 4-for-4 and drew a walk in five trips to the plate for the Indians. Simpson, Poteat and Jacob Nester each had two hits. Cash had two hits for Young Harris. Jake Tomelevage (3-2), the third of five Mountain Lion pitchers, took the loss.

After being swept by Newberry late in the season, Catawba has reeled off 11 straight wins. They avenged that regular season sweep by taking two off the Wolves en route to the South Atlantic Conference Tournament Championship.

Catawba and North Greenville faced off earlier this year at Ashmore Park. The Crusaders rallied for three in the ninth to take a 7-6 victory on March 6. The Southeast Super Regional will begin on Friday night in Tigerville, S.C.

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