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College Baseball: Albertson stays hot; Indians stay unbeaten

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

Catawba’s top-seeded baseball team stayed unbeaten in the South Atlantic Conference baseball tournament in Forest City on Saturday.

Once again, the hero was Will Albertson. His three-run homer in the fifth inning broke a 3-all deadlock and put the Indians on their way to a 9-7 victory that knocked fourth-seeded Lincoln Memorial (24-22) out of the double-elimination tournament at McNair Field.

It was Albertson’s 24th homer of the season and tied the school record. It came in the 47th game for Catawba (37-10). David Trexler powered 24 homers for the Indians in 1999 during a 45-game season. Major leaguer Jerry Sands walloped 24 when the Indians played 61 games in 2008.

It was an exhausting struggle for the Indians, who had to wait out rain issues before finally getting started.

“We just ate and that’s the quietest I’ve ever heard our guys at a restaurant after a win,” Catawba coach Jim Gantt said by phone from Forest City. “I know they guys are tired because I’m tired, and I didn’t play a lick.”

Catawba trailed, 3-1, against Lincoln Memorial starter Grant Painter until the fifth inning. That’s when Dylan Richardson and Chance Bowden singled and Luke Setzer walked to load the bases.

“We didn’t have good at-bats against a tough pitcher early,” Gantt said. “But then we started being more patient, grinding out at-bats, getting some baserunners.”

No.9 hitter Grayland Fowler singled to cut the deficit to 3-2 before Blake Houston’s sacrifice fly tied the game.

Albertson came to the plate with two on and two out, and Painter probably tried to pitch around him.

“He tried to bury a change-up (on a 2-1 pitch). It’s not like he floated it in there and it was low, but it stayed up just a little,” Gantt said. “When Albertson hit it, it looked like a 5-iron. Unbelievable. It cleared the high wall in left field. It’s not like he pulled it down the line.”

Albertson’s homer gave the Indians a 6-3 lead and that long ball kept Catawba starter and winner Shaefer Shepard in the game. Shepard (9-3) won it, allowing five runs and 10 hits in seven innings.

Lincoln Memorial never stopped fighting back.

“It was a dogfight with a really good team,” Gantt said. “They battled to the end.”

Catawba reliever Bryan Blanton got a key strikeout to end the eighth. Ryan McClintock pitched the ninth and got the save.

Albertson had three hits and his four RBI gave him 84 for the season, one shy of Sands’ season record set in 2008. Fowler had two hits and two RBI.  Richardson and Bowden both had two hits and two runs and both made big defensive plays.

Freshman Connor Johnson will pitch for the Indians today at 3:45 p.m., against second-seeded Newberry or third-seeded Tusculum.

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