GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The King University baseball team scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning including the go ahead run on Bubba Ruiz's two-out single as the Tornado defeated Tusculum 8-5 Tuesday afternoon at Pioneer Park.
King improves to 15-6 on the season and records its first win in Greeneville in over 11 years. The Tornado's last win at Pioneer Park dates back to Feb. 28, 2007 and snaps a five-game road losing streak at Tusculum and a four-game drought overall to their in-state foes.
Trailing 5-3 heading to the top of the ninth inning, KU loaded the bases with one out against reliever TC Pedro Rodriguez. Chase McAllister took over on the mound and got Mark Michael to pop up to the shortstop in left field for the second out of the inning. Valdes worked the count full and on the 10 pitch of the at-bat, he lined a single up the middle to drive in two runs to tie the game at 5-5. Ruiz stepped up lifted a single to right field to bring home the go-ahead run and Tyler Bailey followed with a two-run single to plate two more tallies to give King its largest lead of the game at 8-5.
Michael, who started at third base for the Tornado, took over on the mound and recorded two quick outs. TC's Trey Hinton drew a walk and Seth DeHaven reached on a bunt single to bring the tying run to the plate. But Michael secured his second save of the year by striking out pinch-hitter Deric Graham to end the game.
The Tornado finished the game with 13 hits, including six in the ninth inning. The Pioneers (11-11) posted six hits but drew six walks and tied a school single-game record by being hit seven times, but the Pioneers left 13 runners on base for the game. Tusculum's seven hit batters matches the record previous established at King in 2000.
KU's Valdes led all players with his three-hit performance while J.P. Castaneda, Mark Michael and Kevin Barbato all had two hits apiece. Tusculum's Daulton Martin went 2-for-4 while Zach Finchum also had a 2-for-4 effort in the loss.
The Tornado plated a pair of runs in the second inning off of TC starter Eamonn Collins. Barbato drove in the first run of the game with his seventh double of the season. He would later score himself on a wild pitch.
The King pitching staff stymied the Pioneer bats through the first six innings as the trio of Ashton King, Evan Harof and Garren Jackson gave up only one hit in the opening 2/3 of the contest. After giving up the two runs in the second, he blanked the Tornado over the next two innings and Christian Cuba retired nine in a row to keep it a 2-0 ball game.
The Pioneers finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh inning with four runs, all with two outs. Martin got things started with his two-out double down the right field line for his team-leading ninth two-bagger of the year. McDade and Montgomery were both hit by pitch to load the bases. Colby Skeen swung and missed at a ball in the dirt for strike three but reached base on the wild pitch as Martin scored TC's first run of the game. Finchum followed with an infield hit to drive in McDade with the tying run and pinch-hitter Garrett Dupuis followed with a two-run single to give the Pioneers a 4-2 lead.
King got one of the runs back in the top of the eighth as Michael led off with an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error on the play. Valdes singled home Michael to trim the deficit in half at 4-3.
Tusculum answered with a run in the bottom of the eighth as DeHaven led off with a walk and moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt at first base. Martin singled home DeHaven with his single up the middle to make a 5-3 contest and setting the table for the wild ninth inning for King.
Christian Lindsey picked up the win in relief to go to 2-1 on the season.
Tusculum is back on the road for its next four games, including this weekend's three-game South Atlantic Conference series at Catawba beginning with Friday's 6 p.m. opener.