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Tusculum rallies to 6-3 upset win over No. 6 Tampa

Cole Baxley went 2-for-4 with a home run and the game-winning RBI double in Tusculum's 6-3 upset win over No. 6 Tampa.
Cole Baxley went 2-for-4 with a home run and the game-winning RBI double in Tusculum's 6-3 upset win over No. 6 Tampa.

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Cole Baxley went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI including his eighth-inning double to drive in the go-ahead run as Tusculum rallied from a three-run deficit to upset sixth-ranked Tampa Friday at Pioneer Park.

The Pioneers (22-10) erupted for four runs on four hits in the eighth, while TC starter Ethan Carpenter pitched a gutty 8.1 innings while achieving several milestones.

Carpenter (5-3) scattered six hits, allowed three runs, three walks and tallied six strikeouts including the 200th of his collegiate career to become only the fourth player in program history to achieve the feat.  The win was also the 20th of his career, tying him for fifth place with former teammate and 2016 National Pitcher of the Year Placido Torres.

Carpenter also tied a school record by making his 46th mound start on Friday, equaling former TC All-American hurler Ryan Baker who made 46 starts from 1997-2000.

Tampa jumped out to the 3-0 advantage with a run in the second inning and added two more runs in the third.  In the UT third frame, the Spartans loaded the bases with no outs and Darren Miller came through with a two-run chopper over the head of third baseman John Topoleski to extend the lead to 3-0.  But Carpenter worked out of the two-on, no-out jam with a pair of fly outs and a ground out.

Meanwhile, Tampa starter David LeBron was pitching a gem himself as he blanked the Pioneers through the first five innings and retired eight TC batters in a row at one point.

Edison Cabrera led off the sixth inning with a sharp single through the right side and later scored on Bradley Evans' one-out double to the left field wall to trim the deficit to 3-1.  LeBron contained the inning as he left the bases loaded with a huge strikeout of Dante Key to end the threat.

Tusculum threatened again in the seventh as Baxley led off the inning with his third home run of the season to get the Pioneers to within one run (3-2).  TC had the tying run at second base with two outs and Nick Lacina coming to the plate.  UT reliever Cheyne Bickel took over for LeBron and got a ground out to end the inning and preserve the one-run lead for the visitors.

In the bottom of the eighth, TC got runners at first and second with one out when Daulton Martin reached on a fielder's choice and moved to second when Topoleski was hit by a pitch.  Key tied the game with his single to center to bring in Martin.  Baxley put the Pioneers in front for the first time with his third double of the year as Topoleski scampered in with the go-ahead score.

Pinch-hitter Zach Lippincott added a pair of insurance runs with his two-RBI single to give the Pioneers a 6-3 lead.

Carpenter came out to pitch in the ninth as he got the first out on a fly ball, but ran into trouble when he walked Kyle Cotilletta.  Berry came on in relief and got a fly ball to right fielder Seth DeHaven for the second out of the inning.  A wild pitch moved Cotilletta to second base and Rivera walked to put two runners aboard and bring up the potential tying run in Danny Lee.  The game ended when Lee grounded down the first base line to Berry who threw to first to secure his four save of the year and his third consecutive save in as many opportunities.

Bickel (3-3) suffered the loss for the Spartans as he went 1.1 innings, allowed four runs on four hits.

Tusculum out-hit Tampa by an 11-6 margin as Jeremy Glore, Evans, Key and Baxley all finished with two hits.  Miller and Laz Rivera paced the Spartans with two hits each.

The two teams combined to turn five double plays in the game as Tusculum had three twin-killings, while Tampa turned two themselves.

The victory was Tusculum's third win over a nationally-ranked opponent this season as TC improves to 3-1 on the year against ranked foes.

It was the Pioneers' first win over a top-10 opponent since defeating No. 6 Francis Marion in the 2012 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional in Mount Olive, North Carolina.  Tusculum's last win over a top-10 team in the regular season also came at Mount Olive, this time against the sixth-ranked Trojans in the opening weekend of the 2008 campaign.

Tusculum and Tampa will continue the three-game weekend series on Saturday with a 4 p.m. game at Pioneer Park.

 
 

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