DUE WEST, S.C. – After winning its opening game of this weekend's conference series with Erskine College on Friday afternoon, the King University baseball team fell in both ends of Saturday's doubleheader 7-5 and 14-6 to give the Flying Fleet the win in the series.
Erskine (23-11, 11-4 Conference Carolinas), which came into the weekend ranked second in the league in batting average, scored 21 runs and pounded out 27 hits in Saturday's two-game set while limiting King (14-27-1, 5-10 Conference Carolinas) to five runs in each contest.
King's Hunter Smith had a spectacular series, homering in all three games against the Fleet. He finished the weekend batting 4-for-9 with six runs batted in. Tyler Raymond also performed well for the Tornado, going 5-for-8 with a double, two triples, three runs scored, and three runs batted in.
King appeared to carry over the momentum from Friday's 6-5 victory into the early innings of today's doubleheader. After a full-count single by Tyler Gaby to lead off the afternoon's first game for the Tornado, Stephen Mullins singled on the first pitch he saw to put two runners aboard. Raymond, who had three hits for the game and finished a home run shy of the cycle, then lined the next pitch to left center to score both runners and give King a 2-0 lead. He would later come around to score on a J.D. Wallace single to right center and stretch the Tornado advantage to three runs.
But the Fleet responded with three doubles in the second inning that plated a pair of runs. King used a Smith two-run home run to left center field to go up 5-2 after a leadoff triple by Raymond in the third. Again, the Fleet were able to respond, scoring four times in an inning in which the only out recorded in the first six Erskine hitters came from a sacrifice bunt. Erskine added an RBI single in the fourth inning to go up 7-5, and neither team was able to push a run across the rest of the way.
Starter Reiss Stanley took the loss for the Tornado after giving up all seven Erskine runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings of work. Alex Martin was perfect in his 1.1 innings of relief. Wes Schuler picked up the win for Erskine, throwing 4.0 innings in relief of Fleet starter Austin Gambrell while allowing just three hits and striking out four.
King again was able to take the early lead in Saturday's final contest. In the second inning, Geoff Cieslewitz knocked in Smith on a single up the middle, then came in to score on an RBI groundout from Moises Soto. King added to its lead an inning later on a Raymond RBI single before a three-run homer by Destin Nichols capped a four-run third.
After a single run in the fourth for Erskine, the Tornado would tie the game in the next frame on Smith's third home run of the series, a two-run shot to left center that scored Raymond. But Erskine would send ten men to the plate in the bottom of a six-run fifth inning punctuated by a Brandon Overstreet home run that gave the Fleet an 11-5 advantage. Erskine would add three runs in the sixth and only allow one Tornado score over the final three innings.
Alexander Gonzalez took the loss, giving up 11 runs on 14 hits in 4.2 innings pitched. Erskine's Nic Levy earned the win after allowing five runs in 5.0 innings of work.
King returns to the field on Tuesday, April 8 in a nonconference tilt with Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, N.C. First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.