College baseball: Almond powers Catawba victory
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Catawba catcher Zac Almond’s medical chart is looking up, and the Indians are still looking down at the rest of the South Atlantic Conference in today’s standings.
A flu-plagued Almond missed Catawba’s series with Coker last weekend, but now he’s healthy. His booming bat made a difference in a 12-6 comeback win against Wingate. Sunday’s victory completed a three-game weekend sweep at Newman Park.
“I had the flu pretty bad,” Almond said. “But I was starting to feel better on Monday and I started getting my energy back on Wednesday.”
Catawba dug a 4-0 hole, but Almond’s three-run homer in the third on an 0-1 pitch energized the Indians and lifted them back in the game with one swing.
“The first time through the lineup, their starter (Hunter Morgan) was really dealing, but he was throwing a lot of changeups,” Almond said. “I told the guys that I didn’t think he could beat us with his fastball, so we needed to sit on the changeup and adjust to the fastball, if he threw it, and hit it back side. The second time up, he started me out with a curveball for a strike, so I knew the next pitch was going to be a fastball or a changeup. I sat on the changeup, and that’s what I got.”
Almond crushed it out of the park on a day when the wind was blowing in.
Almond was a long way from done. His two-run homer — another one to left-center — highlighted a five-run fourth inning that put Catawba ahead to stay. Then Almond tacked on a run-scoring single to right in the fifth for a six-RBI day.
The first two innings were scoreless. Then Wingate did some damage against Catawba lefty Bryan Ketchie in the top of the third with two singles, two walks, a hit batsman and a sac fly for three runs. Catawba coach Jim Gantt turned to the bullpen and Nick Borgen. Borgen faced two batters — a single to make it 4-0, followed by a walk. Clay Young got the call next. That turned out to be the key decision of the day.
“I came in against the bottom of the lineup, so I was throwing fastballs,” Young said. “(Centerfielder) Malachi Hanes made a really good catch (Reece Daniel didn’t miss a grand slam by much) to get us out of that inning, and then we came in and got the bats going. Zac hits that three-run homer, and we’re right back in it.”
Young allowed two hits in the fourth, but there was a double-play grounder between those singles, and Young was able to put a big zero on the scoreboard.
Hanes’ infield hit ignited a five-run bottom of the fourth, and when Young returned to the mound he was pitching with an 8-4 cushion. He got the Indians though the fifth and sixth. Then Ryan Kahny, Nick Coble and Bryan Blanton pitched an inning each to finish off the Bulldogs (13-15, 4-5).
Hanes had a stellar day defensively and offensively. He produced three hits, including a long solo homer against the wind in the eighth. Coastal Carolina transfer Ben Bomberger stayed hot with three hits and is now batting .405.
“This game started out a lot like that 10-1 game we lost to Coker last week,” Gantt said. “The difference today was our bullpen came in and stopped them, stopped their momentum, kept the game close. We were down 4-0, but it still was really early in a nine-inning game, and we were able to relax, swing the bats a little bit and come back. We’ve hit well — and played well — at home all season.”
Catawba (19-7, 10-2) out-homered Wingate in the series, 10-1, and is now 15-1 at home.
Ty Andrus had three hits for the Bulldogs.
The Indians play at third-place Lincoln Memorial next weekend. Tusculum has won seven in a row and is in second place in the SAC, one game behind Catawba.
Wingate 004 000 020 — 6 12 2
Catawba 003 521 01x — 12 17 0
HR — Catawba: Almond 2 (7), Hanes (5).
W — Young (1-0). L — Morgan (3-4).