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College baseball: Indians rally to beat Tusculum

Staff report

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Jeremy Simpson’s three-run double with two men out in the top of the ninth lifted Catawba to a 7-6 comeback win at Tusculum on Friday in the first of a three-game series.

The Indians came back from a 6-1 deficit. The other hero was Clay Young, who pitched five scoreless innings in relief.

“Clay Young was the difference,” Catawba coach Jim Gantt said. “He kept them at bay, gave us a chance to come back.”

Catawba (27-13, 14-5 South Atlantic Conference) entered the game in a four-way tie for first in the SAC with Tusculum (24-13, 13-6), Lincoln Memorial and Newberry. Lincoln Memorial beat Newberry, 10-6, in the opening game of their crucial series.

Catawba lefty Russ Weiker was roughed up early, as the Pioneer scored three runs in the first and two more in the second. Connor Johnson relieved Weiker. He got Catawba out of the second and though the third with more run scoring. The Indians were down 6-1 when Young took the mound in the fourth.

The Indians started chipping away, one run at a time. Chance Bowden singled home a run in the fifth. Jackson Raper’s triple and Simpson’s sac fly made it 6-3 in the sixth. Catawba got another run in the seventh on a throwing error to get within 6-4.

Ethan Carpenter pitched into the eighth for the Pioneers. Then Reliever Chase McAllister ran into control issues in the ninth.  Three straight walks to start the ninth set the table for the Indians, but after a strikeout and a popup it looked like the Pioneers might wiggle out of the jam.

With Catawba down to its final out, Simpson, the slick-fielding shortstop from West Rowan High, got a pitch to drive.

“It was a slider that stayed up, and Simpson hit it good toward the right-center gap,” Gantt said. “It’s a big ballpark, and they were playing Simpson shallow, trying to take away the flare. The ball went over the right fielder’s head. He laid out, made a dive for it.”

Hanes, probably the fastest Indian, was running from first, and he was sprinting. He followed Kyle Smith and Bowden across the plate. Simpson has 24 RBIs, matching his total from all last season.

Catawba had the lead. Closer Bryan Blanton had the task of holding it. Blanton gave up a hit in the bottom of the ninth, but he struck out two and earned his 11th save.

“He had a couple of games recently where he wasn’t locating,” Gantt said. “But then he stopped thinking and started chucking it again. He had his good fastball tonight. He’s got his confidence back.”

The Indians are likely to need Blanton again today. They’re taking on the Pioneers in a doubleheader that starts at 1 p.m.

Catawba had 12 hits, with Smith, Hanes, Raper and Luke Setzer getting two each. Tusculum had 11 hits.

 

Catawba       100 011  103    — 7 12 0

Tusculum    321  000 000  — 6  11  2

W — Young (3-0). L — McAllister (1-1), S — Blanton (11).

Home runs — None.

 

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