KODAK, Tenn. --- Lincoln Memorial used a pair of four-run innings to erase one-run deficits and defeat Tusculum 10-7 in a winners bracket game in the Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championship tournament Saturday night at Smokies Stadium.
The fourth-seeded Railsplitters (33-18) are the lone unbeaten team in the tournament, and advance to play Sunday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of Sunday's elimination game between the seventh-seeded Pioneers (25-26) and eighth-seeded Anderson, which will begin at noon.
Eight of the 10 runs scored by the Railsplitters came with two outs as Lincoln Memorial overcame Tusculum leads of 3-0 and 5-4. Chris Salvey went 3-for-5 with a double and Seth Hunt drove in three runs, including the go-ahead two-run single as part of the Railsplitters' four-run sixth inning.
Bryson Ford went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI for the Pioneers, while Zack Finchum finished 3-for-4 with a walk and scored twice. However, Pioneer pitchers combined to issue nine walks and gave up 12 hits to the Railsplitters, who had five doubles and a home run.
Tusculum took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Lincoln Memorial starter Joe Bobiak, who tossed a one-hit shutout against the Pioneers on March 10. Daulton Martin led off with a walk, moved to second on an errant pickoff throw by Bobiak, took third on a fly ball and scored on a groundout by Nate Montgomery.
In the second, the Pioneers added two more runs as Finchum led off with a single and Ford came through with a two-out single. With a full count and the runners moving, Seth DeHaven singled to bring home Finchum from second and Ford all the way from first for a 3-0 Tusculum lead. The Pioneers would load the bases with two outs, but Bobiak got a called third strike to end the rally.
Tusculum starter Justin Massey faced the minimum through the first two innings, but gave up a solo home run to LMU's Mason Ewers to start the third. After two outs, Hunt walked on a full count and Will Reddick, Tyler Adams and Salvey came through with consecutive RBI doubles to give the Railsplitters a 4-3 lead.
The Pioneers came back with two runs in their half of the third, as Finchum singled with one out and scored on a double by Garrett Dupuis which tied the game at 4-4. Bobiak was lifted in favor of reliver Chase Randolph, who surrendered a two-out RBI single to Ford which put the Pioneers back on top 5-4.
Reliever Colin Johnston, who came on in relief of Massey in the third, worked out of a two-on, two -out jam in the fourth and retired the side in order in the fifth. In the sixth, a leadoff single by Timmy Wages and a double by Nate Stinson put runners at second and third with nobody out. A groundout and a strikeout gave the Pioneers a chance to escape unscathed, but a walk to Dalton Dedas was followed by a two-run single from Hunt and an RBI single from Reddick for a 7-5 LMU lead. Hunt then scored on a throwing error on a stolen base by Reddick to cap the inning and give the Railsplitters an 8-5 lead.
LMU tacked on two more runs in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Ewers and a bases-loaded walk to Hunt for a 10-5 Railsplitters lead, and Randolph stranded two Pioneers on base in the bottom of the seventh. Tusculum rallied in the eighth as Ford and pinch-hitter Jake Wapinsky drew walks, and Martin delivered an RBI double to pull the Pioneers within 10-6. Kevin Norton came on in relief and retired Jarel McDade on a grounder which scored Wapinsky, then got the final out on a ground ball.
The Railsplitters looked for insurance in the ninth, but Mitch McCain worked out of a two-on, one-out situation to keep the deficit at three runs for the Pioneers. Skeen led off the ninth with a double, but two groundouts and a called third strike ended the game.
Randolph (3-0) worked five innings in relief of Bobiak, allowing two runs on four hits while walking four and striking out a pair. Bobiak surrendered five hits and five runs (four earned) with three walks and three strikeouts, and Norton pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for his first save.
Johnston (3-2) took the loss for the Pioneers after giving up six hits and six runs (five earned) in 3 1/3 innings, with three strikeouts and three walks. Massey allowed five hits and four runs in 2 2/3 innings for the Pioneers, who received a combined three scoreless innings of relief from Pedro Rodriguez, Trevor Lloyd and McCain despite five total walks.
Reddick was 2-for-6 at the plate with two RBIs for the Railsplitters, while Wages was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. Hunt, Joe Stucky and Dedas all drew a pair of walks for the Railsplitters, who saw the bottom three hitters in their lineup (Ewers, Stucky and Dedas) combine to go 2-for-8 with five walks, two runs scored and two runs batted in.
For Tusculum, McDade was 0-for-3 with an RBI but walked twice, as did Martin who was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. The Pioneers left nine runners on base, while the Railsplitters stranded 10 in the game.
The Pioneers will meet Anderson for the first time in the tournament after sweeping their three-game series on March 25-26. The eighth-seeded Trojans (24-28) picked up wins over Lenoir-Rhyne and Catawba on the first two days of the tournament before losing to Carson-Newman 6-1 on Saturday. Carson-Newman and Catawba will meet in an elimination game on Sunday at 3:45 p.m.