BURLINGTON, N.C. – In the opening game of the Conference Carolinas Baseball Tournament, it looked as though third seeded King University would cruise past fourth seed Belmont Abbey College. However, the Crusaders tied the game with a five run seventh, but the Tornado answered with a run in the bottom of the inning to take the game 7-6 and move into the winner's bracket.
Belmont Abbey (27-16-1) didn't waste any time getting on the board as Ryan Allen worked a one-out walk in the top of the first inning. He then moved to second on a groundout and later scored on a two-out single by Michael Falsetti to make the score 1-0 after one half inning.
The Tornado (29-18) had an answer in the fourth inning; however, as Stephen Mullins led off the inning with a single to center. Garrett Cook followed with a walk, before Carl Roberts dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third and bring Hunter Smith to the plate. Smith took the second pitch he saw up the middle to score both runners and give King the 2-1 lead. Tom Hooker added onto the lead for King later in the inning as he laced a two-out single up the middle to score two and stretch the Tornado lead to 4-1 after four.
Roberts looked to spark the Tornado offense again in the sixth inning with a leadoff double. However, Belmont Abbey pitcher Nate Cudney got back-to-back strikeouts and looked to get out of the jam against Hooker. The junior then took the 2-2 pitch of the at bat and crushed the first home run of his career over the right field fence to extend the King lead to 6-1.
The Crusaders were quick to respond in the top of the seventh as Fasetti laced a two-run single to pull Belmont Abbey within three runs. After an out and a pitching change, Kennan Stanley ripped a two-out three run home run to right field to even the score at 6-6.
Mullins brought the King offense back to life in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff double down the left field line. He was then sacrificed to third base, and remained there with two outs and Smith at bat. The 2-2 pitch of Smith's at bat reached the backstop, scoring Mullins to put King back in the lead, 7-6 after seven.
Alex Martin came into the game in the seventh inning allowed three runs to score, but he got out of the jam and went on to retire six straight batters, including three strikeouts in the eighth. Martin earned the win, going two and one-thirds innings in relief. Cory Rhodes got the start for the Tornado and allowed three runs on five hits in six and one-thirds innings.
Gaby went 3-for-5 to lead the King offense while Mullins chipped in with two hits. Mullins and Hooker each scored two runs, and Gaby, Smith and Hooker all drove in two runs apiece.
King will be in action again tomorrow night when they face the winner of No. 2 Coker College and No. 5 Pfeiffer University. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., from Burlington, N.C.