Tornado top Francis Marion for first win of the season

FLORENCE, S.C. – The King University baseball continued their tough road schedule to open the season when they traveled to Francis Marion University to open a three game series on Saturday. The Tornado offense erupted in King's 7-4 game one win, but the Patriots came back late to take game two 12-10 for the split.

The Tornado offense exploded in the second inning of game one as J.D. Wallace drew a leadoff walk to start the frame. Stephen Mullins followed with a single, and Geoff Cieslewitz laced a double down the left field line to score Wallace and get King on the board. Justin Trent then reached on an infield single before Carl Roberts ripped a double off the top of the right field wall that scored two. Landon Weitekamp drove in Trent with a groundout before Tom Hooker crushed a double to left center that scored Roberts. Tyler Gaby registered a triple that scored Garrett Cook before Wallace capped the seven-run outburst with a run scoring single to right field.

Francis Marion (6-2) answered however, plating two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Alexander Gonzalez minimized damage as the starter stranded the bases loaded to keep King (1-6) in the lead 7-2.

At that point, Gonzalez settled in as he only allowed six base runners the next five innings. Francis Marion's pitcher, Brandon Stoots was also on his game in the middle innings as held the Tornado offense down.  The Patriots got to Gonzalez in the eighth inning again as Casey Gebhardt started the inning with a walk. After a walk and a wild pitch, Cory Rhodes relived Gonzalez and David DeWolfe greeted him with a single to center field to score a run. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Isaac Davenport plated another run with an infield single to cut the Patriot deficit to 7-4. However, Rhodes then stuck out back-to-back batters to leave the bases loaded and keep King in the lead.

The Patriots threatened to even the score in the ninth inning as they had runners on the corners with only one out. Nevertheless, Rhodes got a fly out and a strikeout to give the Tornado their first win of the year, 7-4.

Gonzalez earned his first win of the year as he allowed three runs, two earned on six hits in seven and one-thirds innings. The senior also struck out eight batters. Rhodes struck out four in one and two-thirds innings in relief of Gonzalez. Hooker paced the offense going 3-for-4 from the leadoff spots while Gaby, Mullins and Trent added two hits apiece.

In game two, the Tornado struck first again as Gaby started a two-out rally with a single to right field in the top of the first inning. He then stole second, and Wallace drove him in with a single through the right side to give King (1-7) the early 1-0 lead.

The Patriots answered in the bottom of the inning as Michael Wilson drew a bases loaded walk to even the score, but Rhodes got a strikeout to strand the bases loaded. Francis Marion then took their first lead of the day when the plated an unearned run in the bottom of the second before the Tornado answered in the top of the third inning.

Cook was hit by a pitch and Gaby followed with a double that one-hopped the left field wall to score Cook and even the score at two apiece. The King offense then exploded in the fourth inning to break the game open. Hunter Smith started the inning with a double, and Tyler Raymond drove him in with another double. Later in the inning, Cook ripped a two-run double down the left field line to stretch the King lead to 5-2. Gaby came up with the hit of the inning, a three-run home run that hit the scoreboard in left center field to give King a commanding 8-2 lead after four innings.

The Patriots got one run back in the fifth inning before King extended their advantage with two runs in the sixth inning to take a 10-3 lead. Francis Marion continued to chip away at their deficit as they score two runs in the seventh inning before they erupted for a big inning in the eighth inning.

DeWolfe started the scoring with a two-run single through the right side before the Patriots scored three more runs, on a single, walk and fielding error to even the score at 10-10. Francis Marion still had the bases loaded with only one out. JD Crowe then followed with an infield single that score two and gave the Patriots a 12-10 advantage. The Tornado got the final two outs to send the game to the ninth.

Raymond drew a walk to start the frame, and Hooker registered a one-out single to center to put two runners on. After another out, Gaby earned a walk to load the bases. However, Jeffry Stoner, the Patriot pitcher induced a pop out to end the threat and the game.

In the contest, King had seven errors while the Patriots made three. Gaby led the King offense, going 3-for-5 with four runs batted in and two runs scored. Mullins and Raymond followed with two hits apiece.