Tornado Baseball splits opening doubheader at No. 15 Francis Marion

FLORENCE, S.C. - King College capitalized on errors in the 2011 baseball season opener at No. 15 Francis Marion (S.C.) University to take game one 8-3, but King was overtaken 5-1 in the finale Sunday.

Of King's eight runs just one was earned thanks to five Francis Marion errors.

Stephen Mueller (Mt. Washington, Ky.) drove in a pair of runs in the third with a single to left. He would score in the fifth inning on a wild pitch as he had two hits. Bryant Walker (Knoxville, Tenn.) added a two-out double down the right field line to drive in two more Tornado runs. His extra base hit was the only one King had in the contest.

King tacked on two more unearned runs in the fourth with one in the first.

Newcomer Cory Rhodes (Kissimmee, Fla.) tossed eight shutout innings and only allowed two hits. He mixed in three strikeouts. In all he faced 28 batters and walked one. Rhodes had to work around a lead-off hit in the first followed by a balk, but he kept the home team off the scoreboard. In one point he retired 11 straight batters from the second to sixth innings which was interrupted by an infield single. Rhodes answered with eight straight outs to close out his appearance.

Francis Marion sent eight batters to the plate in the final inning, and three eventually scored.

Don Sandifer gave up all eight of King's runs in five innings of work. He struck out five with a walk. Sandifer came into the season with a 2.73 ERA in the 2010 season which ranked 53rd among NCAA Division II pitchers.

The game-one win was the first time King started 1-0 since the 2008 season when the Tornado defeated Maryville (Tenn.) College 6-0.

King started game two with a run on a C.J. Stabler (Kingsport, Tenn.) RBI groundout. Tyler Gaby (Bristol, Tenn.) scored on the play after he led the game off with a single and stole second.

The only other Tornado hit came from Brad Blanton (Ashland, Ky.).

Francis Marion answered with a run in the second before back-to-back two-run innings in the third and fourth.

Wesley Houser (Knoxville, Tenn.) was tagged for the loss after 1 1/3 innings of work in relief. He was hit for four runs on six hits.

Francis Marion's Joe Wagstaff went all seven innings with four strikeouts and one walk mixed around the three hits.

King welcomes Tiffin (Ohio) University for a weekend three-game series. Saturday's doubleheader has a noon scheduled start with a 2 p.m. contest Sunday.