College Baseball: Crusaders outscore Catawba

Published 12:19 am Thursday, April 7, 2016

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Belmont Abbey slugged seven homers and outscored Catawba, 24-22, in a nine-inning baseball game that dragged on for four hours, 23 minutes on Wednesday night at Newman Park.
Winning coach Chris Anderson, who pitched for Catawba back in the days when there was no high wall at Newman Park, is still a hurler at heart. He said he was glad when it was over.
So was Catawba coach Jim Gantt, who is not a fan of the flat-seamed baseballs that came into play in 2015. They travel 20 feet further, and Newman Park is already cozy with a 360-foot distance to dead center and inviting 345-foot power alleys.
“Both teams were sending some men up to the plate and both teams can hit, but it just wasn’t fun,” Gantt said. “That wasn’t baseball. I’m getting tired of it.”
Catawba (24-12) banged out 21 hits, including five by Will Albertson and four each by Dylan Richardson and Chance Bowden. Jeremy Simpson drove in three runs, while Luke Setzer scored four.
Catawba belted five doubles, a triple and four homers and still lost to the 10th-ranked Crusaders (28-7-1). Catawba enjoyed a nine-run fourth inning. It still wasn’t enough.
Belmont Abbey had 23 hits, 12 for extra bases. Nick Nunziato walloped two of the Crusaders’ homers. Catcher Thomas Yoder had a career at the expense of the Indians, smacking four hits and driving in six runs.
Belmont Abbey scored 12 two-out runs and scored against six of the seven pitchers Gantt used. The only Indian hurler to put up a zero was Heath Mitchem. Mitchem got out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the eighth by striking out the side.
“They hit everything we threw,” said Albertson, Catawba’s catcher. “Fastballs, changeups, breaking balls — it didn’t make much difference.”
Belmont Abbey used eight pitchers, including winner Weston Clarke and Kyle Halbohn, who earned a save by striking out Zac Almond on a 3-2 pitch to the end the game with two Indians on base.
Almond had already swatted two walk-off homers this season, but he couldn’t do it a third time.
“We had our best on the mound at the end,” Anderson said. “We really didn’t want to use Kyle in this game, but we also didn’t want to get beat by a three-run homer.”
Down 11-4 early, Catawba came back.
“The best quality this team has had all year is they don’t give up,” Gantt said. “That’s a good quality to have.”
The Indians actually appeared to be taking control of the game with that nine-run fourth.
“Catawba’s just really good, really hitting,” Anderson said. “They were hitting .315 coming in, and we came in here trying to piece it together on the mound,. Catawba was just hitting the crap out of it, but so did we. Our offense was good.”
The turning point came in the top of the fifth. Catawba led 16-12 and reliever Ryan Kahny had gotten quick two outs. A routine roller in front of the mound should’ve been out three, but Kahny air-mailed his throw over the head of first baseman Bowden. Before Catawba could escape that inning, Belmont Abbey had scored four times, and it was 16-all.
“I think we make that play and we win the game,” Gantt said. “We just gave them too many extra outs, and you can’t do that with a team that hits like they do.”
Connor Johnson took the loss. He was a victim of two Belmont Abbey homers in the seventh. Yoder homered for a 19-all tie, and Matt McGarry’s solo homer put the Crusaders ahead. That was a decisive, six-run frame for Belmont Abbey. Weston Clarke ripped a two-run homer for a 23-19 lead after Sean Grant relieved Johnson.
Setzer homered in the seventh for the Indians, but Nunziato powered his second blast of the game for the Crusaders in the ninth against Catawba closer Bryan Blanton.
Catawba’s final run scored on Albertson’s one-out homer in the ninth.
“When you score 22 runs, you did a lot of things right, and we hit up and down the lineup,” Albertson said. “We just had a few defensive mistakes that hurt us.”
Catawba heads next to Tampa to play on Friday against the defending national champs.
“We had some bright spots tonight,” Gantt said. “But we know we’ve got to play better.”

Belmont Abbey 344 141 601 — 24 23 3
Catawba 403 921 111 — 22 21 2
HR — BA: Matt McGarry(1), Colin Rosenbaum(2), Nick Nunziato 2 (14), Weston Clarke(6), Thomas Yoder(1), Levi Wright(1). CAT: Dylan Richardson (8), Luke Setzer (6), Will Albertson 2(11).
W — Ryan Craig (2-0). Loss — Connor Johnson (3-3). Save – Kyle Halbohn (8).