BRISTOL, Tenn. – In its final nonconference matchup of the season, the King University baseball team avenged a February loss to local rival Tusculum College with a 12-7 win after falling behind 6-3 to the Pioneers in the early going.
King (18-27-1) starter Tyler Raymond had a shaky outing, allowing three baserunners in the first two innings before the Pioneers were able to break through in the third. Out of the first nine Tusculum (26-17) batters to come to the plate in the inning, the only one that didn't reach safely was retired on a sacrifice fly. Tusculum sent 12 batters to the plate in the frame and led King 6-3.
But the Tornado came roaring back, using a three-run fourth inning to reclaim the lead at 7-6. Logan Schmidt, who finished 3-for-5 at the plate and was a home run short of the cycle, led off the inning with a triple to right field. Garrett Cook drove him in with an RBI double, then came in to score two batters later on a Geoff Cieslewitz first-pitch single through the left side. Carl Roberts capped the Tornado scoring with an RBI double to left center.
The Tornado tacked on two important insurance runs in the fifth inning on a triple to right center by Justin Trent that scored Alex Azeredo and Schmidt. Trent finished with a pair of hits and four runs batted in, two of which came on a second-inning home run into the gap in right center.
King's bats came alive in the contest, pounding out 16 hits and forcing the Pioneers to use five different pitchers in relief of Ethan Carpenter, who pitched into the fourth inning and gave up six runs on eight hits. The Tornado, however, used seven hurlers to stymie the Pioneers' offense. After Raymond exited in the third inning, Tusculum only managed two hits and a single run off of King's relievers. The Pioneers threatened in the ninth, loading the bases before a flyout to deep right center field ended the game. By contrast, the sixth inning was the only frame in which the Tornado failed to push across at least one run.
Tyler Gaby, currently ranked third nationally in doubles, joined Schmidt in finishing a home run short of the cycle, scoring three times and batting in a run. Cieslewitz, Roberts, and Ganger also had multi-hit days for King, with Roberts and Ganger also accounting for multiple runs batted in.
Matt Jackson earned the first win of his career in relief of Raymond, pitching two scoreless innings and giving up one hit. Clark Ayers suffered the loss for the Pioneers after giving up three runs in 1.2 innings.
King will face off against Barton in a three-game series this weekend in the Tornado's final regular season contests. Friday will feature a doubleheader beginning at noon, while Saturday's single game is slated for a 12:30 p.m. first pitch. Both teams have clinched a bid to the six-team Conference Carolinas Tournament, with King currently residing in fourth place in the conference with Barton in sixth. Both teams could finish as high as No. 4 or as low as No. 6 in the final standings.