College baseball: Catawba sweeps homer derby
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Catawba and Shippensburg will play baseball at Newman Park again today at 1 p.m.
Both coaching staffs may call for pitching volunteers after Saturday’s carnage at the cozy, old ballpark that included 21 home runs — 13 by the Indians and eight by the visiting Raiders.
“Twenty-one homers — that’s insane,” Catawba right fielder Luke Setzer said.
Setzer contributed mightily to the madness with the first three-homer day of his life, including one on a second-game slider that he walloped over the new scoreboard and in the general direction of Mooresville.
“Got all of that one,” Setzer said. “I stayed focused on the backside, and put a good swing on it.”
Catawba put a lot of good swings on baseballs and took the non-conference doubleheader, 18-15 and 11-4. Catawba broke school records for homers in a game (7 in the opener) and in an inning (4 in the seventh inning of the nightcap).
“This is a great park for American Legion baseball,” said Catawba Jim Gantt, with a sigh. “But grown men are going to the plate in a college game, and a lot of balls that are hit in the air, that look pretty routine, are going out of the park. That first game, when it was still warm, and with the wind blowing, it just got out of hand. Our pitching is a lot better than it looked today.”
Catawba newcomer Nick Coble hit the ball so hard in the first game that he cost himself a rare cycle. He had a homer, a triple and two doubles.
Coble could’ve stopped at first base and achieved the cycle when he got a hit down the left-field line in the sixth, but he hustled to second base for his second double.
“That was great to see,” Setzer said. “That showed what a team guy he is.”
Coble also was the key guy in the second game. Starting that game on the mound, he got a key strikeout in the top of the third with the bases loaded and Catawba trailing, 3-1.
“I got ahead in the count, located a fastball, and he swung through it,” Coble said.
Then in the bottom of the third, Coble launched a grand slam to center on a 2-1 pitch, giving him nine RBIs on the day.
“The last thing I was thinking about on that at-bat was a homer,” Coble said. “Just trying to hit in a gap , but it turned out to be a big hit for the team.”
Catawba (4-3) was cruising with a comfortable 14-6 lead in the opener but defensive mistakes helped Shippensburg make things interesting with a seven-run eighth. Catawba answered in the bottom of the inning with two-run homers by Ben Bomberger and Setzer.
Starter Michael Elwell got the Indians into the fifth inning in Game 1. Connor Johnson’s ERA suffered but he earned the win. Clay Young worked the last two innings.
Catawba’s defense made four errors in the opener, and the way the ball was flying out of the park, giving up extra outs meant surrendering additional runs.
By the time the second game started, it was drizzling. The weather was cooler, and fly balls weren’t carrying as far.
The hard-throwing Coble fanned seven men before being lifted due to a battle with control in the fourth. Catawba’s bullpen took over and was very good —with winner Cody Fitch, Ryan Kahny and Heath Mitchem all getting the job done.
Setzer, who had lost a flyball in the sun in the first game, made up for it with a diving catch that got Mitchem out of the seventh inning when Catawba was clinging to a 5-4 lead. Then Mitchem struck out the side in the eighth.
In the big picture, Russ Weiker firing a successful ninth inning in his season debut, may have been the most significant occurrence on Saturday. If he’s healthy, he’ll be Catawba’s ace.
In the bottom of the seventh in the second game, Setzer, Zac Almond and Chance Bowden powered consecutive homers. Later in the inning, Kyle Smith hammered a shot to right that soared over the flagpoles for the school-record-breaking fourth homer of the frame.
Shippensburg’s Drew Bene and Jake Kennedy hit two homers apiece in the first game.
The homer parade for Catawba included three each by Setzer and Almond; two each by Coble and Smith, and one each by Bowden, Bomberger and Malachi Hanes.
“I like our offense, and I’m glad we hit it today,” Gantt said. “But we need to do better. We can do a lot better defensively than we did today.”
Shippensburg 032 001 072 — 15 19 2
Catawba 020 235 24x — 18 21 4
W — Johnson (1-1). L — Curtis (0-1).
HR — SHIP: Kennedy 2 (2), Bene 2 (2), Baggett, Painter. CAT: Setzer 2 (3), Smith (2), Almond (2), Hanes (2), Coble (1), Bomberger (1).
Shippensburg 102 000 100 — 4 7 1
Catawba 104 000 51x — 11 14 1
W — Fitch (1-0). L — Crum (0-1)
HR — SHIP: Hoover (1), McMillen (1). CAT: Almond 2 (4), Setzer (4), Smith (3), Coble (2), Bowden (1).