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Finchum walk-off gives Pioneers split with Rams

Zack Finchum celebrates his walk-off double in the first game as Tusculum and Winston-Salem split a DH Thursday (photo by Chris Lenker).
Zack Finchum celebrates his walk-off double in the first game as Tusculum and Winston-Salem split a DH Thursday (photo by Chris Lenker).

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Zack Finchum hit a walk-off double in the first game as Tusculum and Winston-Salem State split a non-conference baseball doubleheader Thursday at Pioneer Park.

The Pioneers won the opener 4-3 in eight innings on Finchum's late game heroics while the Rams rallied with four runs in the top of the seventh inning and held off a late TC rally to win the night-cap 5-3.

Game 1: Tusculum 4, Winston-Salem State 3 (8 innings)

Finchum belted a two-out double to the gap in left field to drive in Jarel McDade with the game-winning run in Tusculum's 4-3 walk-off victory over Winston-Salem State in Thursday's first game.

McDade hit a double to the wall in right center with one out and Finchum belted his third double of the year to give TC the victory and snap a three-game losing streak.

The Pioneers scored three runs in the second inning to take a 3-0 advantage on WSSU.  Finchum and Edison Cabrera led off the frame with back-to-back hits and both moved into scoring position following a Logan McMahan bunt.  Bryson Ford drove in the first run of the game with his ground out and Seth DeHaven brought in the second with his bunt single.  On the play, he moved to third base on a throwing error on the play.  Daulton Martin lined a single through the right side of the infield to give Tusculum a three-run lead.

The Rams chipped away at the deficit scoring two runs in the third inning and got a lead-off home run from John Garcia in the fifth to tie the game at 3-3.  In the third, Randy Norris led off with a single and moved to third on Garcia's base hit. The throw to third to get the sliding Norris, Garcia moved to second base to put both runners in scoring position. Brandon Ford laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that drove in Norris with WSSU's first run of the game.  Cole Parks followed with a one-out single to bring in Garcia with the second run of the frame.

After the Pioneers had its three-run inning back in the second, WSSU starter Seth Reeves shut down the Tusculum offense retiring 15 of his last 16 batters including 14 in a row in the no-decision.

TC's relievers were just as brilliant as Colin Johnston pitched four strong innings where he allowed four hits with his only blemish coming on Garcia's home run.  From there he retired six of his last seven batters. Pedro Rodriguez pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts to improve to 3-2 on the season.

WSSU reliever Kyle Taylor suffered the loss to even his record at 1-1 on the season.

Finchum finished the game with two hits for the Pioneers while Norris and Garcia had multi-hit performances for the Rams.

Game 2: Winston-Salem State 5, Tusculum 3

Trailing 2-1 in the top of the seventh, Winston-Salem State rallied with four runs and held off a Tusculum comeback in the bottom of the inning as the Rams prevailed 5-3.

Cole Parks drove in three RBI including a pair of on his two-out single to provide a couple of insurance runs.

In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and a runner on first, Seth DeHaven stole second base and came into score on Daulton Martin's base hit.  McDade legged out an infield single and Nate Montgomery drew a walk to load the bases.  But WSSU relief pitcher Josh Larson got a fly out to end the game and secure his first save of the year.

WSSU got on the scoreboard first with a run in the opening inning.  Both starting pitchers were outstanding as WSSU's Jalen Scott retired the first nine batters in a row, while Kent Noe bounced back from the first inning and finished with 4 1/3 innings where he scattered one run on five hits with zero walks and five strikeouts. 

Tusculum broke through in the fourth as Martin led off with a walk and moved to second on McDade's bunt single.  Montgomery moved them over with a bunt and Colby Skeen gave TC a 2-1 lead with his one-out, two RBI hit up the middle.

In the top of the seventh, Luke Spiva led off with a single up the middle and moved to second on Nate Williams bloop single to right.  Norris drove in the tying run with his single through the left side and after Garcia was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Brandon Ford drove in the go-ahead run with his RBI ground out and a 3-2 lead.  Parks single that got by the diving Martin at second base brought home Norris and Garcia.

The Rams finished the game with 10 hits including two apiece from Brandon Ford, Spiva and Nick Williams.  TC was held for four hits in the contest with McDade going 2-of-4 at the plate.

WSSU's Tomas Goco picked up the win in relief to go to 1-0 on the year, while Josh Larson notched the save.  TC reliever Sean McDaniel suffered the loss (0-1).

Tusculum returns to action this weekend when they host Anderson for a three-game South Atlantic Conference series. The action begins with a 3 p.m. doubleheader on Sunday and wraps up with a 2 p.m. single game on Monday.  The series was altered due to the threat of inclement weather.

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