College baseball: Sweep keeps Indians in the race
MARS HILL — Catawba’s baseball team entered Sunday’s doubleheader at Mars Hill’s Henderson Field in fourth place in the South Atlantic Conference.
But at the end of a long day, the Indians stood in a four-way tie for first with Tusculum, Newberry and Lincoln Memorial at 13-5.
Both games of the doubleheader were scheduled for seven innings. The Indians won the opener in the eighth, 7-6, and pulled out the nightcap, 11-8, with a six-run rally in the seventh.
Catawba (27-11 overall) did it mostly with offense, pounding out 11 hits in each game. Luke Setzer (East Rowan) went 5-for-5 in the opener and had seven hits in the doubleheader.
In the first game, the Indians stayed in it with longballs. Zac Almond had a three-run homer, Nick Coble had a two-run blast, and Malachi Hanes hit a solo shot. Setzer knocked in the go-ahead run in the eighth after Ben Bomberger walked and stole second.
Connor Johnson (East Rowan) was the key guy on the mound with a sturdy long relief outing of 4 2/3 innings. Johnson (6-1) allowed a homer to the first man he faced but retired the next 11. Johnson picked off a runner in the seventh to send the game to extra innings.
Bryan Blanton saved both games. Mars Hill’s Matt Honeycutt (South Rowan) led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third. The next two batters for the Lions (223-19, 9-9) walked, but Blanton struck out the final two batters to end the game.
Catawba entered the final inning of Game 2, down 8-5. Chance Bowden (Salisbury) and Coble doubled to start the frame. Back-to-back walks forced home a run before a Lion error allowed the tying runs to score.
Hanes followed with a single that scored Kyle Smith with the go-ahead run. Almond capped the rally with a two-run double.
With two men on base, Blanton struck out the side in the seventh to finish the sweep.
Clay Young (2-0) got the win.
Next for Catawba is a trip to fourth-ranked Mount Olive on Tuesday at 5 p.m.