HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- RJ Ball's eighth inning grand slam capped a six-run frame to lead the Coker baseball team to a 16-14 South Atlantic Conference win over visiting Tusculum Friday afternoon at Tom J. New Field.
The two teams combined for 30 runs and 30 hits on the day as the Cobras (14-22, 4-18 SAC) overcame a pair three-run deficits. The Pioneers fall to 21-21 on the year and 12-10 in SAC play.
The Cobras took a 16-10 lead following the six-run outburst, but had to hold off a Tusculum rally in the ninth to preserve the victory as the Pioneers scored four times in the final frame.
Coker's Thomas Lopez led his team offensively going 3-for-6 including a home run while the trio of Reilly Hall, Bryson Conner and Connor Cleary finished with two hits apiece.
Tusculum's Jarel McDade continued his torrid pace of late, going 3-for-4 with five RBI including his sixth-inning grand slam to give the Pioneers a 9-6 lead. McDade also scored four runs for a second straight game and also reached on a pair of walks.
TC shortstop Daulton Martin went 3-for-4 with four runs scored and a pair of doubles, his SAC-leading 16th and 17th of the year. Martin has hit safely in his last six games and moves his school-record streak of getting on base safely to 54 consecutive outings. He also raises his SAC-best batting average to .425 on the season.
The Pioneers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning as Martin and McDade led off with singles and Montgomery drove in the first run of the game with his base hit to left field. McDade and Montgomery moved up a base on a wild pitch and designated hitter Colby Skeen lined a two-run single to left field to cap the scoring in the opening frame.
The Cobras responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning as Larry McCabe reached on a two-out single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Brooks Estrada got aboard via a catcher's interference and the two runners moved up a base on a failed pickoff attempt. Connor Cleary followed with a two-run single to make it a 3-2 game.
Coker took its first lead of the afternoon thanks to a three-run second inning which was highlighted by a Conner two-run single. Coker took advantage of two-base throwing error and Conner drove in his third run of the game with his second straight hit to extend the lead to 6-3.
The Pioneers trimmed the deficit to 6-5 with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning. Martin led off with a double and moved to third on McDade's base hit to center. McDade moved into scoring position with his team-leading ninth stolen base of the year and Montgomery followed with a two-run single up the middle as TC trailed by one.
Tusculum regained the lead in the sixth when Hinton led off with a hit and Seth DeHaven legged out a bunt single. After a fly out, Martin walked to load the bases to set the table for McDade. McDade took the second pitch from reliever Jake Moore and lifted a towering blast to left field to clear the bases as the Pioneers led 9-6. It was his second home in as many games and was the third grand slam hit by a Tusculum player this season.
TC reliever Pedro Rodriguez took over for starter Charles Hall and got a fly out and a strikeout from the first two batters of the inning. But Estrada was hit by a pitch and Cleary drew a walk to bring Lopez to the plate and he hit a three-homer to left field to tie the game at 9-9.
Tusculum regained the lead briefly in the seventh as Bradley Evans hit his sixth double of the year and scored on Hinton's RBI single for a 10-9 Pioneer lead. But Coker tied the game at 10-10 thanks to a two-out error by the Pioneers.
Tusculum looked to answer in the top of the eighth when Martin lined a double down the left field line and moved to third on a passed ball. McDade walked to put runners on the corners with no outs, but Coker's Tanner Wofford got out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts and a pop up back to the mound to end the inning to shift the momentum back to the Cobras.
In the bottom of the eighth, Lopez led off with a single and moved to send on a bunt. Charlie Burguieres hit a single through the right side and Lopez beat the throw to him for the go-ahead run. Crosby walked to put two runners on and bring in TC reliever Mitch McCain for Trevor Lloyd. Hall lined a RBI single to left to scored Burguieres and move Crosby to third. Conner was intentionally walked to load the bases for Ball as he lined a grand slam over the fence in left field to give the Cobras a 16-10 lead.
Coker would need the six-run cushion heading to the ninth as the Pioneers would not give up. Hinton, Ford and Martin drew walks to load the bases with two outs. Wofford pitched around McDade as he drew the fourth walk of the inning to bring in a run. Drake Knight took over on the mound for Wofford. He would throw a wild pitch allowing Ford to score. Knight compounded the situation when he committed a two-base throwing error on Montgomery's ground ball to bring in Martin and McDade, moving Montgomery to third base and bring up pinch-hitter Logan McMahan to represent the tying run. But Knight calmed down and end the game with a strikeout of McMahan to end the game.
Wofford (3-3) pitched 1 2/3 innings to get the win while Lloyd (0-1) was credited for the loss for the Pioneers.
The two teams will wrap up the series on Saturday with a noon doubleheader.