Trojans comeback to top King in Conference Carolinas title game
BURLINGTON, N.C. – Earlier in the day, the King University baseball team staved off elimination with a win over Barton. However, the Tornado couldn't quite keep the momentum rolling in the championship game against the University of Mount Olive. The Tornado held the lead for most of the game before the lead changed hands multiple times over the last three innings. The Trojans plated runs in each of the final three innings, including the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning, taking the game 10-9.
Mount Olive (40-11) grabbed the early lead two batters into the contest. Jay Gonzalez started the contest with a double, and scored on Luke Barry double. However, the Tornado (24-29-1) had an answer in the bottom half of the inning. Tyler Gaby started the game for King with a home run to center to even the contest. Stephen Mullins followed with a single, and advanced to second on a throwing error before scoring on a J.D. Wallace single through the right side. Justin Trent later made it a 3-1 Tornado lead with a bunt single that scored Trent.
The score remained the same until the fourth inning when Tyler Raymond drove in Gaby with a double to center. Raymond moved to third on a groundout before scoring on a wild pitch to give King a 5-1 advantage after four.
Mount Olive started to comeback in the fifth, plating a run on a Braden Reitano infield single and another on a Rob Shipman ground out. Garrett Cook added a run with a single to center that scored Trent, who singled to start the inning, giving King a 6-3 lead after five.
Things got interesting in the seventh when Mount Olive gained their first lead since the first inning. A bases loaded hit by pitch brought in the first run before a fielder's choice, followed by a throwing error scored two to even the score at 6-6. The Trojans took the lead with an RBI single before a squeeze play made the score 8-6 going to the bottom of the inning.
It didn't take King long two answer as Trent was hit by a pitch to start the bottom half of the inning, and Tom Hooker followed with a single through the right side. Cook then laced the first pitch he saw over the left center field fence to give the lead back to King at 9-8.
That lead didn't last long as Mount Olive manufactured the tying run in the top of the eighth. Gonzalez started the frame with a single and was sacrificed to second before stealing third. He then score on a Reitano groundout to even the score at 9-9.
Raymond sparked a Tornado rally in the bottom half, reaching on an error to start the half-inning. Following an out, Geoff Cieslewitz ripped a single through the right side that moved Raymond to third. After a pitching change, Trent dropped down a bunt that Raymond tried to score on. However, the Trojan defense was up to the task, cutting down the run at the plate.
Mount Olive again manufactured a run in the ninth following a Justin Manning leadoff single. A walk put two runners on, and after an unsuccessful sacrifice attempt, the runners stole second third. The Trojans grabbed the 10-9 lead following a fielding error before Alexander Gonzalez got the final two outs to bring King up to bat in the bottom of the ninth.
However, the Tornado offense couldn't muster any offense off Mount Olive's Zach Bernard who sat the Tornado down in order to claim the Conference Carolinas Tournament title for the Trojans.
Cook paced the Tornado offense, going 3-for-5 with four runs batted in, including the three-run home run in the seventh. Hooker, Trent and Cieslewitz all registered two hits for the Tornado offense. Senior Cory Rhodes earned the start on the mound and went six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits.
Seniors, Cook, Wallace and Rhodes were all named to the all-tournament team for their performances this weekend.
The loss ends King's season with a record of 24-29-1 as they finish as the Conference Carolinas Tournament runners-up for the second straight season.