SALISBURY — While most of the sporting world’s attention was focused on the Super Bowl on Sunday night, Catawba baseball coach Jim Gantt was busy watching Mexico battle the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean World Series.
Now that’s a true baseball guy.
Gantt had earned a little relaxation time after his team spent the afternoon and evening winning two games from high-powered Tusculum at Newman Park.
Catawba came back to win 5-3 in the opener, then held on for dear life to win the nightcap 8-7.
Catawba is ranked 13th nationally, while Tusculum, the Indians’ biggest rival in the SAC and one of their toughest foes in the Southeast Region, entered the weekend ranked 17th.
“Tusculum is good and they ran some men up to the plate,” Gantt said. “It’s really just too early to play now, but when you beat them twice, it’s always good.”
Craig Brooks saved both games for the Indians. Starter Ross Whitley was outstanding in the first game, although Ryan McClintock came out of the bullpen to get the win.
Starter Cam Cockman was up-and-down in the second game, but he fought through five innings for a victory.
Both teams played great baseball in the first game Both teams played not-so-great baseball in the nightcap.
“When you’re playing two nine-inning games in the cold and wind this early that can be a recipe for bad baseball,” Gantt said.
Catawba (4-0) won the second game despite making six errors. It’s unlikely they’ll beat anyone who’s good the rest of the season if they make six errors, but Tusculum pitchers issued 11 walks.
The second game was so wild that when Tusculum coach Doug Jones lifted starting pitcher Cody Poarch in the third inning, the Indians were still looking for their first hit.
But Poarch had walked five of the 13 men he’d faced.
Whitley was steady against a powerful lineup. He allowed six hits in six innings.
“Tusculum can hit, but I thought Whitley was in command,” Gantt said.
McClintock held the Pioneers (1-2) to one hit in the seventh and eighth to get the win. Brooks pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
Catawba trailed 3-2 going to the bottom of the seventh but put together a rally with two out and no one on base.
Ethan Satterfield was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored the tying run on Paul Kronenfeld’s double. Infield hits by Chris Dula and Julio Zubillaga pushed Kronenefeld around with the go-ahead run.
Satterfield knocked in an insurance run in the eighth.
Down 3-1 early, Catawba put together a five-run third inning to take the lead for good.
Walks set the table, and Danny Parisi and Blake Houston delivered two-run singles. Houston’s big hit came on a 1-2 pitch with two men out.
In the fifth, Dylan Richardson walked with the bases loaded and Satterfield drove in a run with a fielder’s choice to give the Indians an 8-5 lead.
Will Johnson pitched a scoreless sixth, and Graham Lawing worked a scoreless seventh.
Tusculum took advantage of Catawba miscues to score two unearned runs in the eighth against Lawing and McClintock.
Brooks pitched around an error in the ninth and struck out two to finish the sweep. The Pioneers had the tying run at second base with one out in the ninth, but Brooks got a flyout and a strikeout.
Catawba won the nightcap despite being out-hit 13-5.
“It was ugly, but our bullpen guys threw well, and Brooks was low 90s,” Gantt said. “That’s good velocity for this time of year.”
Catawba will play in a tournament at Asheboro’s McCrary Park next weekend.
tawba will play in a tournament in Asheboro, NC, next weekend hosted by Pfeiffer. The Indians open up against Barton on Friday afternoon.
Game 1 Box