College baseball: Catawba 7, Pfeiffer 4
By Mike London
Chris Dula hit one out of sight, Garrett Furr hit one just right, and Catawba beat nemesis Pfeiffer 7-4 at Newman Park on Wednesday.
Catawba (20-5) evened the season series at 2-2 with the Falcons (13-15), who have twice buried Catawba at Ferebee Field in Misenheimer.
“I think we just hate playing over there,” Dula said. “ But we’ve won the two games at our place.”
Dula absolutely crushed a three-run homer in the sixth to transform a 2-1 Catawba deficit into a 4-2 lead.
Furr blooped a three-run single in the eighth to break a 4-4 tie. The ball dropped in just out of the reach of a pair of diving outfielders, and with two out, everyone was running. Dula, who can move, scored all the way from first, chasing John Neese and Josh Hohn around the bases.
“Garrett didn’t hit it great, but that ball fell in at the right time,” said Hohn, whose double set up the winning inning. “They honored Garrett as a hitter, played him very deep, and that’s how it fell in.”
Catawba is off to an 11-1 start in the SAC while playing a flock of freshmen. Five started against Pfeiffer.
One of those freshman is Dula, who leads the team with a .355 batting average and 29 RBIs. He committed his fifth error of the season Wednesday, but that’s not bad for a former center fielder trying third base for the first time.
“I’m getting used to it,” said Dula, who turned in one spectacular stop. “I’ve gotten comfortable there.”
Freshman right-hander John J. Tuttle, the former A.L. Brown star, was the other Catawba hero. He didn’t get a decision, but he pitched six sharp innings with one walk and five strikeouts.
“Just a very well-pitched game by both starters,” Catawba coach Jim Gantt said. “(Ethan) Marsh did a great job for them; Tuttle did a great job for us. Tuttle made just one mistake. He got one pitch up.”
Catawba’s freshman center fielder Blake Houston dropped a flyball in the third — that may not happen again in his career — to hand Pfeiffer (13-15) a run, but he made up for it by driving a sacrifice fly to the warning track in center for a 1-1 tie in the fourth.
Pfeiffer broke the tie in the sixth on a pitch that a tiring Tuttle elevated. Preston Lyon hammered it for a two-out, run-scoring double. With runners at second and third, Tuttle escaped the inning by striking out Eric Shoemaker with deception.
“It was a great changeup in a great location,” said Hohn, Catawba’s veteran catcher. “Tuttle keeps getting better every time out there.”
Tuttle went from a potential losing pitcher to a potential winning pitcher when Dula jacked his three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. Ryan Bostian’s single and a walk to Austin Moyer set the table for Dula, who jumped all over a 3-1 pitch.
“With that count, I’m sitting on a fastball inside, and he gave it to me,” Dula said.
Catawba fans applauded as Nathan Furr took the mound for the first time this season to pitch the seventh. The 2010 SAC Pitcher of the Year, he’s coming back from surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon.
“It was great to see Nathan back out there, and that was the best thing that happened tonight,” Gantt said. “I know his heart was racing.”
Furr got an out with the first pitch he threw and worked a scoreless seventh.
“That was a big lift for us,” Hohn said. “I hugged Nathan after the game, I was so happy for him. He’s put his heart into coming back, and it’s big for us. He’s been at the bottom of dogpiles after winning championship games for us.”
Lyon struck again in the Pfeiffer eighth, belting a two-out, two-run homer to left off Clay Watson to tie the game at 4-4, but the Indians didn’t let this one get away.
In the bottom of the eighth, Neese delivered a one-out, pinch-hit single, and Hohn’s ringing double off the wall put runners at second and third. Austin Moyer fanned for the second out, bringing up Dula.
Dula was intentionally walked.
“If he hadn’t hit the home run earlier, they probably wouldn’t have pitched around him,” Gantt said. “Garrett Furr is a dangerous hitter.”
Furr fought off a 1-2 pitch, and when it landed safely in right-center, Catawba held a 7-4 lead.
Wil Huneycutt pitched a quiet ninth for a save, and Catawba owned its 20th win.
“We’re off to a fast start,” Gantt said. “But there have been lots of racehorses that jumped out to a lead, ran out of gas down the stretch and finished last. We haven’t done anything yet.”
Catawba travels to Anderson for a weekend series.