KODAK, Tenn. --- Catawba College's Josh Raper drove in the tying and game-winning runs with his two-run single in the eighth inning to advance the third-seeded Indians to a 5-4 win over No. 4 seed Tusculum University to advance in the 2019 Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament at Smokies Stadium.
The Pioneers (30-20) will face top-seeded and 10th-ranked Newberry College on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. which will be an elimination game for Tusculum. Catawba (39-12) will face No. 2 seed Lincoln Memorial University in the winner's bracket at 7:30 p.m.
Raper finished the game going 3-for-4 including his one-out, two-run single in the eighth off of TU starter at SAC Pitcher of the Year Charles Hall.
The Indians finished with nine hits in the contest including Hunter Shepherd's 3-for-4 performance and scored the go-ahead run on Raper's third single of the night.
Raper has been on fire in his last four SAC Tournament games where he has gone 13-of-17 and driven in 12 RBI during that span.
Tusculum also finished with nine hits on the evening as Catawba utilized six different pitchers, while Hall (6-3) went the distance for the Pioneers. Nate Montgomery went 3-for-5 for Tusculum with two RBI and extends his hitting streak to six in a row.
Catawba opened the bottom of the first inning with three consecutive singles to load the bases. Hall got Lee Poteat to ground into a double play as Heath Mitchem scored the first run of the game. Raper grounded a two-out single to right field to make it a 2-0 lead.
Tusculum answered with a run in the top of the second as Nate Montgomery led off with a base hit down the right field line and Trey Hinton drew his 49th walk of the season. Jarel McDade bunted the duo over into scoring position. Zack Finchum reached on a fielder's choice as the throw to second base was bobbled allowing Montgomery to score.
The score remained 2-1 until the top of the seventh inning when the Pioneers loaded the bases with one out and Montgomery came through with a two-run single to give Tusculum a 3-2 lead. TU tacked on a run in the eighth as Jarel McDade reached on his second hit of the game and moved to third on Bradley Evans base hit to right. But on the play, the ball got away from Poteat allowing McDade to score to make it 4-2.
In the Catawba half of the eighth Mitchem led off with a single and after a Hall strike out of Jeremy Simpson for his 10th strikeout of the night, Shepherd moved Mitchem to third with his single to right field. Pinch-hitter Dylan Wilkinson drew a walk to load the bases. A wild pitch brought home Mitchem to make it a 4-3 contest and set the table for Raper's heroics.
Catawba reliever Peyton Williams recorded his eighth save of the season as he worked around a two-out single by Montgomery before striking out pinch-hitter Garrett Dupuis to end the game.
Riley Myers picked up the win in relief to improve to 7-0 on the season as he went 1.1 innings, scattered three hits, allowed an unearned run with one walk and one strikeout.
Hall pitched his second complete game of the season as he allowed five runs, two walks and 11 strikeouts for his 11th game with double-digit strikeouts in his 13 starts this year. Hall has posted 148 strikeouts this year which leads the nation and are the second-most ever by a Pioneer in a single-season.
This is the first time Tusculum and Catawba have played this season and is the 18th time the Pioneers and the Indians have squared off in SAC Tournament play (9-9).