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Pioneers use big innings, hold on late for 9-7 win over Flames

Bradley Evans went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI in Tusculum's 9-7 win over Lee.
Bradley Evans went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI in Tusculum's 9-7 win over Lee.

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Bradley Evans went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two RBI to lead the Tusculum baseball team to a 9-7 non-conference win over Lee University Tuesday night at Pioneer Park.

The Pioneers (23-22) erupted for five runs in the opening inning sparked by four straight doubles.  Lee chipped away at the lead and trimmed the deficit to 5-3 before TC answered with a four-run seventh inning.  The Flames made it interesting with four runs in the ninth and had the tying run at the plate but closer Pedro Rodriguez recorded three strikeouts to end the game.

The Pioneers avenge last month's 12-10 loss to the Flames with the victory.

Tusculum posted 13 hits on the evening including a season-high seven doubles which are tied for the fourth most in program history.  The Flames finished with seven hits including a pair of home runs from Spencer Mossburg, including a three-run blast in the ninth to make it a two-run contest.

Tusculum rookie Harbor Jefferson (1-0) recorded his first collegiate win as he pitched six innings where he scattered two runs on four hits, five walks and three strikeouts.  Jefferson carried a no-hitter through four innings.  Lee starter Christian Bokich suffered the loss as he faced eight batters in the five-run first inning for the Pioneers.

The TC quartet of Jarel McDade, Nate Montgomery, Bradley Evans and Zack Finchum accounted for the back-to-back-to-back-to-back doubles to give Tusculum a 3-0 lead.  John Bennett followed with a base hit to move Finchum to third. Trey Hinton drove in the fourth run of the frame with a ground out to first and Bryson Ford line a two-out single for a 5-0 lead.

The two teams settled in for a pitchers' duel over the next three innings.  Jefferson allowed a walk in each of his first four innings.  Meanwhile, David Pattinson, who relieved Bokich in the first frame, pitched masterfully as he tossed 4.1 shutout innings while scattering two hits, one walk and posted two strikeouts.  Pattinson retired the final seven batters he would face.

The Flames picked up one run in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to cut the deficit to 5-3.  Trailing 5-1, Mossburg hit a towering solo shot to left field that cleared the Tusculum walking trail.  In the seventh the Flames mounted a two-out rally as Justen Freeman drew a walk and scored on Miguel Pimentel double off of TC reliever Christian Cuba. Peyton Meeker drew a walk to put the tying runs on base, but Mossburg hit into a fielder's choice to end the frame.

The Pioneers tacked on four runs in the seventh thanks to an Evans RBI single to score McDade who got on with a one-out walk.  Finchum recorded his second double of the night to move Evans to third.  Pinch hitter Jake Wapinsky drew a walk to load the bases and Hinton drew a second walk to bring home Evans.  Ford was hit by a pitch to drive in Finchum.  DeHaven put down a squeeze bunt to second base where he was called out a first on a bang-bang play, but it did the job in bringing in Wapinsky with the fourth run of the game and a 9-3 Tusculum lead.

Cuba faced trouble again in the top of the eighth as Chase Gadau reached on an error and Ryan Beamish walked to put two runs aboard with no outs. But Cuba got back-to-back strikeouts on six pitches and got a fly out to end the inning.

In the top of the ninth, Freeman led off with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch.  Pimentel belted his second double of the game and 13th of the season to make it a 9-4 game. A walk to Meeker set the table for Mossburg who drilled a fly ball that cleared the center field wall to make it a 9-7 contest.

Rodriguez came on and struck out the first two batters before giving up a walk to Dalton Ney. But Rodriguez secured his fourth save of the year with a strikeout of Fernando Ortiz and preserve the win.

Montogomery, Finchum and Ford all finished with two hits each while McDade was hit by a pitch for a team-leading 14th time this season which is third-most in school history and is four away from the season-record 18 tallied by TC Hall of Famer Josh Wolff.

Tusculum shortstop Daulton Martin went 0-for-5 in the contest to end on-base streak at a school-record 56 consecutive games.  During those 56 games, Martin batted .435 (94-of-216) which included 21 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs, 55 RBI, 30 walks and was hit by a pitch on nine occasions. He amassed a sizzling .522 on-base percentage since the streak began on Apr. 15, 2017 against Catawba.

The Pioneers will host arch-rival Carson-Newman this weekend for a huge South Atlantic Conference series beginning with Friday's 6 p.m. opener.  Tusculum and Carson-Newman are tied for third place in the league standings with 13-11 SAC records.

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