College Baseball: Catawba stays in winners bracket
Starting pitcher Alex Fairweather carried a shutout into the ninth inning, and Catawba defeated familiar foe Tusculum 5-1 on Friday to remain in the winners bracket of the Division II South Region baseball tournament in Tampa, Fla.
David Thomas and Jerry Sands both hit home runs for the Indians, who will play top-seeded Tampa today at 11 a.m. Sands’ home run was his 24th of the season, tying a school record.
Catawba (42-16) had lost to SAC rival Tusculum four times this season but managed to win its first two games at the regional after losing its second game in its last two regional appearances.
“It’s a whole lot easier than being in the loser’s bracket,” Indians coach Jim Gantt said. “I don’t want to say it’s impossible to come out of the loser’s bracket and win it, but it makes it a whole lot tougher. It’s certainly not gonna be easy because we’ll face (Tampa’s) No. 1 pitcher tomorrow. They pitched their No. 3, 2 and now 1 tomorrow.
“Be careful what you ask for in the winners bracket.”
While Catawba will face Tampa’s top pitcher, the Indians will have their top pitcher, as well, in Tim Smith.
“We were gonna use Tim in a relief role in game one and start him in the third game whether it was winners bracket or losers bracket,” Gantt said. “We like our chances with him on the mound. I hope it works out.”
If Smith can pitch as well as Fairweather did last night, 17th-ranked Catawba should have a legitimate chance to beat the host team.
Fairweather (8-2) allowed six hits and just one walk and retired the side in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. He struck out six batters.
Catawba gradually gave Fairweather run support, with former East Rowan standout Craige Lyerly scoring Thomas with an RBI single in the first inning. Thomas then hit a two-run homer in the second, Sands hit a solo homer in the fifth, and Bubba Morris (North Rowan) had an RBI double in the sixth.
“We kind of pecked a way a little bit,” Gantt said. “But Fairweather was in control the whole game.”
Gantt’s Indians also benefited from a good defensive play from catcher Ryan Query (A.L. Brown) in the second inning and a lucky break in the fourth.
Catawba escaped a jam in the second when Query threw out Sean Cotten at third base after a strikeout. In the fourth inning, Tusculum’s Matt Webb was called out for leaving third base early when he tried to score on a potential sacrifice fly.