BRISTOL, Tenn. – After splitting Saturday's doubleheader at top-ranked Mount Olive College, the King University baseball team earned the series win with a 12-7 win on Sunday afternoon. The Tornado fell behind early, but finished strong with seven runs in the final three innings to clinch the victory.
Tornado leadoff hitter Tyler Gaby started the game with one of his four hits, a single to right center field, and later came around to score on an Alex Gonzalez double to right center field. However, the Trojans answered with three runs in the bottom half of the frame to grab the lead.
"Gaby is a guy who wants the bat in his hands in the big situations. He came up with those opportunities today and got a couple hits to fall. He gave us the lead in the seventh with a two-out bases loaded single, and broke it open with a two-run double in the eighth" said assistant coach Luke Howard.
King (17-11, 6-6 CC) quickly regained the lead in the second inning as Steven Todoschuk, Jose Sola and Tom Hooker recorded consecutive singles. Gaby followed with a double to center field that scored one, and knotted the score at three apiece. Garrett Cook put the Tornado up 4-3 with a single through the left side that scored hooker. Following a pair of Trojan runs in the second inning, Todoschuk crushed a home run to center field that evened the score at five.
"Yesterday in game two we had base runners on and we hit some balls hard, but they made some great plays. I told the guys last night to keep hitting the ball hard and they will fall, and they did today," said Howard.
After Mount Olive (22-4, 9-3 CC) tacked on one run in the sixth, the King offense heated up again. The Tornado tallied a pair of unearned runs in the seventh to regain the lead, before exploding in the eighth. Josh Huffman started the top of the eighth with a home run to left field before back-to-back singles by Carl Roberts and Todoschuk. After an out, Hooker singled to score Roberts, and Gaby ripped a double down the right field line to score two and give King a commanding 11-6 lead.
Mount Olive plated a run in the eighth, but Chad Dixon got a ground out and fly out to end the threat. King tacked on an insurance run in the ninth to take the game 12-7.
Gaby paced the Tornado offense, going 4-for-6 with five runs batted in and a pair of doubles. Gonzalez and Todoschuck each recorded three hits while Cook, Stephen Mullins and Hooker accounted for two hits apiece.
Alex Martin tossed six innings in relief and only allowed two runs on three hits, earning his first win of the season. "[Martin] came in the game early, and stopped Mount Olive's momentum. You need to guys to come out of the bullpen and throw up zeros, and he did that today," Howard said. "He has been pitching 3-5 innings each time he's been out there, and he exceeded that today. We ask our guys to give everything they have, and he came out of the game with an empty tank."
"The team has been dealt a little adversity lately and they just went out there and fought their tails off. They just kept playing, even when they got behind, they just kept playing, Howard said. "We preach on our team to have a blue collar attitude and just find a way to get the job done. Our guys did that this weekend."
"This weekend is a program builder for one thing, and it's something that doesn't happen often. No. 1 Mount Olive was 21-2 coming into the weekend, and I think it showed our guys the potential we have," said Howard.
King will travel to Tusculum College on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in Greenville, Tenn.