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Finchum single rallies Pioneers to 8-5 win over Mars Hill in SAC opener

Zack Finchum drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the 8th inning on this single. Pioneers beat Mars Hill 8-5 in SAC opener (photo by Chris Lenker)
Zack Finchum drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the 8th inning on this single. Pioneers beat Mars Hill 8-5 in SAC opener (photo by Chris Lenker)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Zack Finchum's eighth inning single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs as Tusculum rallied to an 8-5 victory over Mars Hill Friday night at Pioneer Park in the South Atlantic Conference baseball opener.

The Pioneers (7-6, 1-0 SAC) overcame an early 4-0 deficit and used a four-run eighth inning to pull out the comeback win.  Finchum finished the night going 2-for-5 with three RBI.  Shortstop Edison Cabrera provided the hot bat as he went 4-for-5 and drove in an insurance run to cap off the eighth.

Tusculum relief pitcher Chase McAllister (2-0) pitcher 2 1/3 hitless innings to pick up his second win of the season.

The Pioneers finished the night with 11 hits with seven of those coming in the final three innings.  Tusculum also took advantage of four MHU errors including two miscues to start the bottom of the eighth inning.

Mars Hill (3-9, 0-1 SAC) plated four runs in the second inning including a lead-off homer by Brett Brubacker and a Travis Owens' RBI single.

The Lions looked to add on more in the third inning when Stampler was hit by a pitch and Brubaker lined a single to right to put runners at first and second.  TC's Charles Hall relieved starter Colin Johnston and proceeded to pick off Stampler at second base for the first out and struck out Josh Hall for the second.  Brubaker was thrown out trying to steal second to end the threat.

Meanwhile, MHU starter Jared Mathewson blanked the Pioneers in the first two innings.  In the third, Bryson Ford led off with a walk.  With one-out, Ford moved to third base on a failed pickoff attempt at first. The relay back to the infield went wide of third base allowing Ford to score TC's first run of the game.

Tusculum pulled to within one at 4-3 thanks to a one-out double by Garrett Dupuis in the fourth frame, his third two-base hit of the season.

MHU's Christian Stampler came through with a two-out double to make it a 5-3 game in the top of the fifth.

Tusculum trimmed the deficit to one again as Dupuis reached on a one-out single, moved to second on a Ford bunt and came into score on Finchum's two-out single. 

In the top of the seventh, Hall retired the first two Lions, but Owens walked and Matt Honeycutt lined a base hit to center.  McAllister took over and Stampler hit a towering fly ball to deep right field, but Finchum made the catch on the warning track to end the inning.

In the bottom of the eighth with Tusculum trailing 5-4, Garrett Dupuis reached on a two-base error to start the frame. Ford laid down a bunt in front of the plate as third baseman Gray McCurry came up with the ball and thought about throwing to third. He changed his mind and went to first for the out, but his throw was high, allowing Ford to move to second and Dupuis stayed at third.

The Lions pulled the infield in and got the first out on a grounder with the runners staying put. Finchum stepped up and hit a sharp grounder up the middle for a base hit to drive in Dupuis and Ford with the tying and go-ahead runs as TC led 6-5.  With Daulton Martin aboard with one out, Nate Montgomery reached on a one-out single to put runners at first and second.  Senior Colby Skeen lined a single to right to drive in Martin and Cabrera followed with his fourth hit of the night to bring home Montgomery.

McAllister retired the first two batters of the ninth inning, but ran into trouble as Daniel Vitello drew a walk and Owns was hit by a pitch for a second time to bring the tying run to the plate in Honeycutt.  But McAllister ended the game with his fourth strikeout of the evening.

Montgomery and Dupuis each went 2-for-4 and scored two runs apiece, while Ford posted a pair of sacrifice bunts and scored two times himself.

Charles Hall had a no decision, but kept the Pioneers in the game as he went 4 2/3 innings where he allowed one run on two hits, two walks and six strikeouts.

Martin went 0-for-4 on the night to snap his 23-game hitting streak, dating back to last April.  His 23-game hitting streak is the fourth longest in school history and was five games away from the TC record 28-game streak posted by Maikol Gonzalez in 2008.  Martin did draw a walk in the fifth which extends his on-base streak to 25 consecutive games.

MHU's Fausto Turro (0-1) suffered the loss as he allowed four unearned runs and posted a strikeout.

Mars Hill was led at the plate by Owns and Brubaker, who each had two hits in the loss.

The teams will wrap up the weekend series with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday at Pioneer Park.

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