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Wingate sweeps Tusculum baseball, Topoleski records 200th career hit

John Topoleski recorded five hits on the day including the 200th of his career on this swing at Wingate (photo by Chris Lenker)
John Topoleski recorded five hits on the day including the 200th of his career on this swing at Wingate (photo by Chris Lenker)

WINGATE, N.C. --- The Wingate Bulldogs swept a South Atlantic Conference baseball doubleheader over visiting Tusculum Saturday at Ron Christopher Stadium and Plyler Field.

Wingate pounded out 17 hits in the opener en route to an 11-7 win over the Pioneers. The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom of the seventh and rallied with two runs in the eighth including a walk-off single by Zach Little in a 7-6 victory to complete the sweep.

The Bulldogs (19-29, 10-14 SAC) win the weekend series 2-1 and secure a spot in next week's SAC Tournament in Kodak, Tennessee.

The Pioneers have their three-game winning streak halted as they fall to 27-17 overall and 14-10 in the league.  Tusculum will have to wait for the outcome of Sunday's Mars Hill / Carson-Newman game.  If Mars Hill wins, the Lions will secure fourth place and send Tusculum to a single-elimination rematch against Wingate.  A Mars Hill loss and Tusculum will be the No. 4 seed and will face No. 3 seed Newberry in the double-elimination portion of the tournament.

The Pioneers are scheduled to return to action on Tuesday when they host Lee University for a 6 p.m. contest in a game that was rescheduled from last week due to inclement weather.

Game 1: Wingate 11, Tusculum 7

Joseph Mason went 4-for-5 with three RBI including his eighth home run of the season in Wingate's 11-7 win over the Pioneers.

The Bulldogs erupted for five runs in the fifth and added three more in the eighth to capture the first game of the day.  Wingate finished the game with 17 hits, including Colby Barnette's 3-for-4 performance with his fifth homer of the year.

Wingate jumped out to a 3-0 lead plating a run in the first and two more in the second on a Mason two-run blast. TC scored its first run of the game in the third on a Jeremy Glore RBI single to trim the deficit to 3-1.

The Bulldogs sent nine batters to the plate in the fifth inning, including a two-run single by Little for his only hit of the game as WU increased its lead to 8-1.

Tusculum answered with three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to draw back to within three at 8-5.  The big hit of the sixth game on Bradley Evan's three-run homer and Jeremy Glore provided the offensive the seventh with his two-out RBI double.

The Bulldogs responded with three runs in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a lead-off homer by Barnette and a two-out double off the bat of Turgeon.

Tusculum plated a pair of unearned runs in the ninth but it wasn't enough for the visitors.

WU starter Hunter Morgan picked up the win as he went 6.2 innings, allowed six hits, five runs, four earned, two walks and six strikeouts to improve to 6-4 on the year.  Cameron Price earned his third save of the year as he pitched the final 2.1 innings, scattered four hits, two unearned runs and recorded three strikeouts.

Tusculum starter Tim Hardy suffered the loss to fall to 8-3 on the year.

Glore led the Pioneers at the plate going 3-for-5 with three RBI, while Frankie Valle added a pair of hits in the loss.

Game 2: Wingate 7, Tusculum 6 (8 innings)

Tusculum fought off a 4-1 deficit and took the lead twice late in the game only to fall 7-6 in eight innings.

John Topoleski led the Pioneers with his 4-for-5 effort, including his 200th hit of his Tusculum career.

Tusculum's Daulton Martin put the Pioneers on the scoreboard first with his two-out single in the opening frame.  Wingate scored four unanswered runs with two in the second inning and two more in the third.

Tusculum had opportunities to score in the third and fifth innings. TC had runners at first and second with one out, but Wingate starter Hunter Hamilton got out of the jam with a double play.  In the fifth, Glore led off with a double and moved to third on Topoleski's base hit to have runners on the corners with no outs. But Hamilton got out of the inning with strikeout, a shallow fly out and a ground out.

But Tusculum finally punched through in the sixth when the Pioneers got consecutive hits from Cole Baxley, Dante Key and Edison Cabrera to load the bases.  Evans came in to pinch hit and hit a sacrifice fly to move all three runners up a base, including Baxley in from third for a 4-2 WU lead.  After a strikeout, Topoleski came through with a two-out single to right field to drive in the tying runs and knot the game at 4-4.  It was his 200th hit of his Tusculum career, making him only the sixth player in program history to achieve this milestone.

In the bottom of the sixth, Wingate got the lead-off batter aboard with the go-ahead run.  A bunt move the runner to second, but reliever McKenly Berry ended the threat with back-to-back strikeouts to keep the score tied a 4-4.

In the top of the seventh, pinch-hitter John Bennett led off with his second home run of the season to give the Pioneers a 5-4 lead.  In the bottom of the seventh, Barnette and Bradley Brown led off with back-to-back singles.  A bunt moved the runners into scoring position at second and third.  Mason stepped up and flied out to right field, which was deep enough to bring in Barnette with the tying run.  On the play, Brown was out on the play trying to move up a base, but the game was tied heading to extra innings.

In the eighth, Seth DeHaven led off with a single and moved to second on Glore's sacrifice bunt.  After a wild pitch moved DeHaven to third, Topoleski answered the call again with a RBI single to put the Pioneers on top again at 6-5.

But in the bottom of the eighth, Turgeon led off with a walk and moved to second on Brett Branton's bunt single.  A Reece Daniel bunt moved the runners into scoring position.  Ty Andrus tied the game with his RBI ground out to shortstop and Little followed with his two-out, walk-off single to bring in Branton with the game-winning run.

Doolittle picked up the win in relief, while Berry suffered the loss in his 2.1 innings of work.

 

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