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Pioneers split pair with Mars Hill, win weekend series

Colby Skeen recorded three hits on his birthday as Tusculum split a SAC doubleheader with Mars Hill (photo by Johnny Painter)
Colby Skeen recorded three hits on his birthday as Tusculum split a SAC doubleheader with Mars Hill (photo by Johnny Painter)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum baseball used a pair of big innings as the Pioneers gained a split of a South Atlantic Conference baseball series with Mars Hill Saturday at Pioneer Park.

Tusculum scored seven runs in the sixth inning and added five more in the fifth as the Pioneers routed the Lions 13-1 in the opener. Mars Hill bounced back in rallying from a 5-0 deficit in the night cap and manufactured a run in a crazy seventh inning as the Lions won 6-5.

Tusculum (8-7, 2-1 SAC) wins the weekend series over Mars Hill 2-1 in the opening weekend of league play.

Game 1: Tusculum 13, Mars Hill 1

Tusculum sent 11 batters to the plate in the sixth inning and nine more in the seventh as the Pioneers pounded out 14 hits in a 13-1 victory in the opener.

Trey Hinton recorded his first collegiate hit and went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and a RBI, while Colby Skeen went 2-for-3 with a RBI, two runs scored and a pair of walks, all on his birthday.  Zack Finchum added two hits as nine different Pioneers accounted for at least one hit in the win.

The contest was pitchers' duel through the first five innings for TC starter Leurys Diaz and MHU hurler Alec Bivins.  Bivins retired the first eight batters of the game, while Diaz worked around trouble in the first two innings.

Both teams scratched a run in the fourth frame.  Mars Hill's Brett Brubaker led off with his third double of the year and scored on Shomarii Thomas' RBI single.  TC answered in the bottom of the fourth on Jake Wapinsky's infield single to drive in Nate Montgomery with the tying run.

After giving up Thomas' single, Diaz settled in and retired nine in a row after six innings of work.

In the bottom of the sixth, Tusculum rattled off seven hits, including RBI doubles from Martin and Jarel McDade and a two-run single from Edison Cabrera as the Pioneers led 8-1.  Tusculum added five more runs in the seventh including a RBI double from Skeen and a run-scoring base hit off the bat of pinch-hitter John Bennett to put the game out of reach.

Diaz (2-0) picked up the victory as he allowed six hits, one run, one walk and four strikeouts in his 6 1/3 innings of work.  The duo of Trevor Lloyd and Justin Massey blanked the Lions for the rest of the game.

Game 2: Mars Hill 6, Tusculum 5

Tusculum jumped out to a 5-0 lead after three innings, but Mars Hill battled back with six runs over their final four at-bats.

With the score tied 5-5 with one out in the top of the seventh, MHU's Daniel Vitello was hit by a pitch.  In a strange play, TC head coach Doug Jones was walking to the mound to take reliever Pedro Rodriguez out of the game, but the TC pitcher was called for a balk moving Vitello into scoring position.  Chase McAlister, the winning pitcher in Friday's series opener, came aboard to relieve Rodriguez.  Travis Owens was hit by a pitch and Brubaker drew a walk on four straight pitches to load the bases.  McAlister induced Matt Honeycutt to ground into what was looking to be a 4-6-3 inning ending double play. But after making the out at second base, shortstop Edison Cabrera threw to third base instead Owens slid past the bag and third baseman Bryson Ford applied the tag for the final out. But on the play, Vitello scored the go-ahead run before the final out was made putting the Lions ahead 6-5.

In the bottom of the seventh, MHU pitcher Fausto Turro, the loser in Friday's contest, came aboard to preserve the lead and the win.  He got Jarel McDade to fly out before giving up a pinch-hit single from Skeen.  Turro struck out pinch-hitter John Bennett and went ahead 0-and-2 in the count to pinch-hitter Bradley Evans.  On the third pitch, Evans hit a towering fly ball to the warning track in left field, but Josh Hall gathered in the ball just short of the wall to thwart the Tusculum heroics.

Montgomery tallied a RBI single in the first, Chase Wullenweber followed with a run-scoring double in the second, as the Pioneers got a RBI triple from McDade and a RBI bunt single by Ford as Tusculum led 5-0.

Trailing by five runs, the Lions chipped away at the deficit, scoring a run in the fourth and two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth innings.  In the fifth, Thomas led off with a single and Cody Cline lined a triple over the head of centerfielder Seth DeHaven.  Cline would score from third on Lance Edwards' sacrifice fly. 

The first three batters reached in the sixth as Brubaker walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Honeycutt's RBI single to center. On the play to the plate, Honeycutt moved into scoring position on the throw.  An infield single by Christian Stampler put runners on the corners and Hall drove in the tying run with his sacrifice bunt to first base to tie the game.

Mars Hill starter Zac Brown pitched six gutty innings, allowing five runs (four earned), eight hits, two walks and six strikeouts in his 120-pitch performance to even his season record at 1-1.  He faced his biggest threat in the bottom of the sixth as the Pioneers loaded the bases with two outs, including an 11-pitch walk to Martin.  But Brown struck out Dupuis on four pitches to end the inning.

Rodriguez (1-1) suffered the loss, allowing one hit, one run and two strikeouts in his one-and-a-third innings.

Stampler accounted for two of Mars Hill's five hits.  Montgomery finished with two hits as the Pioneers tallied nine base hits in the loss.

Tusculum returns to action next weekend when they host nationally-ranked Wingate for a three-game series at Pioneer Park, beginning with Friday's 6 p.m. opener.

 

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