Tusculum, Coker split SAC baseball doubleheader

Chase McAllister pitched seven strong innings in Tusculum 18-2 win over Coker to open Saturday's SAC doubleheader (photo by Chris Lenker)
Chase McAllister pitched seven strong innings in Tusculum 18-2 win over Coker to open Saturday's SAC doubleheader (photo by Chris Lenker)

HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- The Tusculum baseball team split a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader at Coker Saturday afternoon at Tom J. New Field. 

The Pioneers recorded 15 hits, 13 walks and a school single-game record seven hit batsmen while Chase McAllister pitched seven strong innings in an 18-2 win in game one.  In the night-cap, Coker's Bryson Conner went 3-for-4 including his walk-off single in the seventh to edge TC 8-7.

Coker (15-23, 5-19 SAC) wins the weekend series over Tusculum (22-22, 13-11 SAC) two games to one despite being out-scored (39-26) and out-hit (37-28) during the three-game set. It is the Cobras' second-straight SAC series win.

With Saturday's split, the Pioneers move into a tie for third place in the SAC standings with arch-rival Carson-Newman, who comes to Greeneville next weekend for the league series finale of 2018.

Game 1: Tusculum 18, Coker 2

Tusculum's Bradley Evans went 2-for-4 with a home run and a career-high five RBI as the Pioneers prevailed 18-2.  Ten different Pioneers recorded a hit, including five with two each including Evans, Daulton Martin, Nate Montgomery, Colby Skeen and Zack Finchum.

TC's seven hit-batsmen are tied for the most in a single-game, matching the seven times hit during last month's game with King (Mar. 13, 2018) and the total during the Apr. 5, 2000 meeting with the King Tornado.  TC's 13 walks match the season-high against Notre Dame (Ohio) two months ago, which are tied for the fifth-most in program history.

McAllister scattered five hits and allowed two runs over his seven inning start where he walked one and struck out seven to improve to 4-1 on the year.

Tusculum erupted for seven runs in the first inning as 12 Pioneers went to the plate as TC utilized four hits, four walks and a hit batter in the frame. Skeen and Finchum accounted for run-scoring singles while Martin tallied a two-run hit in his second plate appearance in the inning. Trey Hinton, Bryson Ford and Seth DeHaven also drew bases loaded walks against Coker starter Cody Brown (1-2).

Coker scratched a run in the bottom of the first before the Pioneers scored five times in the third inning utilizing one hit, three walk and three hit batters to extend the lead to 12-1.  Coker got a solo home run from Larry McCabe to make it 12-2.

TC scored four times in the fourth, thanks to a three-run homer from Evans for his fifth round-tripper of the season.  TC also scored one run each in the fifth and sixth frames to provide the final victory margin (18-2).

Tusculum left 14 runners on base while turning three double plays.  Along with Finchum's 2-for-4 performance at the plate he also tallied a pair of stolen bases.

Game 2: Coker 8, Tusculum 7

The Cobras rallied from four-run deficit and scored the winning run on Conner's fifth hit of the day in an 8-7 Coker victory.

With the score tied 7-7 heading to the bottom of the seventh, Charlie Burguieres singled to center field.  Pinch runner Lake Lybrand came in for Burguieres and he moved to second base on Matt Swiderski's pinch-hit single, moving the game-winning run to second.  Zach Sanders took over for reliever Leurys Diaz, who was in his second inning of work.  The two runners moved up a base on a wild pitch forcing an intentional walk to Reilly Hall to load the bases with one out.  Conner stepped up and lined the second pitch over the drawn-in outfield for the game-winning single to center field.

The Cobras took an early 2-0 lead scoring a run in the first and third innings against TC starter Justin Massey.  Hall led off with a single and moved to second on a Conner double.  McCabe drove in the first run with his ground out.  In the third frame, Ryan Caldwell reached on a lead-off error and later scored on Conner's sacrifice fly out.

Tusculum plated three unearned runs in the fourth inning thanks to a Bryson Ford RBI bunt single and a two-run double from DeHaven as the Pioneers led 3-2.  Coker tied the game at 3-3 with a run in the fourth on a Thomas Lopez RBI single.

Tusculum scored four times in the fifth inning when Martin was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning by Coker starter Michael DeVecchio.  Jake Moore relieved DeVecchio on the mound to face Jarel McDade who lifted a deep fly ball over the left field fence for his team-leading ninth home run of the season and third homer in his last four games.  Montgomery reached on an error and moved to second on Skeen's walk.  Finchum bunted the runners into scoring position.  Evans brought in Montgomery with a sacrifice fly and Hinton followed with a two-out single to give the Pioneers a 7-3 lead.

But in the bottom of the inning, Coker responded with four runs tie the game at 7-7.  Conner led off with a single and McCabe followed with a walk.  Brooks Estrada lined out to DeHaven in center before Connor Cleary drew the third walk of the inning to load the bases.  Colin Johnston came aboard to face Lopez, but walked him on four straight pitches to walk in a run.  Diaz replaced Johnston to face RJ Ball as he reached on an error with McCabe and Cleary both scoring on the miscue. Burguieres singled to right to bring home the tying run. But Diaz got out of the jam with a pop up and a fielder's choice to end the inning.

Nick Taylor took over on the bump for the Cobras as he retired six of the final seven Pioneers he would face, including the side in order in the seventh as he earned the victory to go to 2-5 on the season.  Diaz is tagged for the loss to go to 2-1 on the season.

McDade finished the game going 2-for-3 with two RBI while Ford posted a 2-for-2 performance in Saturday's second game.

Martin went 0-for-3 in the game for the Pioneers but when he was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning, it extended his school-record string of 56 consecutive games reaching base safely.

The Pioneers will play remaining six regular season contests at home beginning with Tuesday's rematch with Lee University. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. at Pioneer Park.