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Pioneers split SAC baseball doubleheader with Lions

Charles Hall struck out double-digit batters in a 5th straight game to win Sunday's opener 11-7 at Mars Hill
Charles Hall struck out double-digit batters in a 5th straight game to win Sunday's opener 11-7 at Mars Hill

MARS HILL, N.C. --- Tusculum and Mars Hill split a South Atlantic Conference baseball doubleheader Sunday afternoon at Henderson Field.  Tusculum got a 13 strikeouts from starter Charles Hall while the Pioneer bats recorded 14 hits in an 11-7 win in the opener.  In the night-cap, the Lions rallied from a 4-0 deficit and scored five unanswered runs to post a 5-4 victory.

Tusculum (14-9, 3-2 SAC) and Mars Hill (8-11, 2-5 SAC) will play the rubber-game of the series on Monday at 1 p.m.

Game 1: Tusculum 11, Mars Hill 7

Tusculum pounded out 14 hits and got three-hit performances from Nate Montgomery and Seth DeHaven while Charles Hall recorded 13 strikeouts as the Pioneers led wire-to-wire in an 11-7 win over the Lions in the opener.

Tusculum plated five runs in first inning sparked by Daulton Martin's two-run homer.  Nine Pioneers went to the plate as TU posted six hits and took advantage of a MHU error to take the lead.  Included in the hit-parade was a RBI double from Jarel McDade and a two-run single off the bat of Zack Finchum.

The Lions scratched an unearned run in the second inning and got a two-run homer from Brett Brubaker in the third as Mars Hill trimmed the deficit to 5-3.  But Hall closed out the inning with a rare four strikeouts in the frame as he began a string of nine consecutive batters retired.

Tusculum got a run back in the fourth as Finchum reached on an error and later scored on Martin's sacrifice fly for his third RBI of the game.  TU plated four more runs in the top of the sixth including Bryson Ford's two-run blast to left field and a 10-3 lead.

The Lions scored an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth as MHU mounted a two-out rally.  Paul Martin doubled to right field and Adam Plouffe drew a walk and Devin Mangum reached on a catcher's interference to load the bases.  Cody Cline worked for walk to bring in MHU's fourth run of the game, but Hall bounced back with a ground out to end the inning.

Tusculum made it 11-4 in the seventh inning when Garrett Goldberg was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on DeHaven's third hit of the game.

Mars Hill answered with a run in the bottom of the frame as Scottie Lee hit a one-out single to score Brubaker, but Lee was thrown out at second when trying to stretch the hit to a double.  McCurry singled and Paul Martin drew a walk to chase Hall out of the game. Reliever Christian Cuba got a ground out to end the threat and preserve the 11-5 TU advantage.

After a strikeout to start the bottom of the eighth inning, the Lions drew four straight walks to score the first run of the inning and another run crossed the plate on a wild pitch to make it an 11-7 contest.  Reliever Mitch McCain got back-to-back strikeouts to end the frame and preserve the four-run lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mars Hill had runners at second and third with no outs, but McCain retired the next three batters with a fly out, a strikeout and a ground out to end the game.

Hall improves to 3-0 on the season as he went 6.2 innings, allowed five runs, three earned, five walks, and his 13 strikeouts marks his fifth consecutive double-digit strikeout performance.  His 66 strikeouts this season currently leads the nation (NCAA Division II).

McCain pitched 1.2 shutout innings where he allowed one hit, three walks and three strikeouts.

Ford and Finchum each had two hits in the Tusculum victory, while Lee was the lone Mars Hill player with multiple hits.

Game 2: Mars Hill 5, Tusculum 4

Mars Hill overcame an early four-run deficit and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning on a wild pitch as the Lions prevailed 5-4 over the Pioneers.

Trailing 4-2 heading to the sixth inning, Scottie Lee belted a game-tying two-run home run.  In the seventh, Cody Cline led off with a single and moved to second on a bunt.  TU intentionally walked Brubaker and Matt Honeycutt also worked a walk to load the bases for Honeycutt.  But a wild pitch brought in Cline with the winning run to seal the comeback victory.

Tusculum accounted for six of its seven hits of the game in a four-run, second inning that included a two-run double from Chase Wullenweber and RBI singles from Seth DeHaven and Daulton Martin as the Pioneers led early for a second straight game at 4-0.

Mars Hill chipped away at the deficit scoring a run in the third and another in the fifth on Daniel Vitello's solo blast to left field off of TU starter Zach Sanders.  Sanders would pitch in five innings, scattering four hits, two runs, two walks and five strikeouts as he left the game with a 4-2 lead.

Mars Hill starter Troy Hall bounced back from the second inning and blanked the Pioneers for the next three frames.  Cameron Howell took over on the MHU mound and worked out of a two-out bases loaded jam in the sixth, getting Martin to fly out to centerfield to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Honeycutt drew a walk against TU reliever Colin Johnston.  Lee followed with his third home run of the season, a two-run shot to left center.  Johnston responded with back-to-back strikeouts, but a walk to Adam Plouffe knocked him out of the game and brought on Pedro Rodriguez who got the final out of the inning with a fly out to left.

Howell picked up the victory to even his record at 2-2.  He pitched two hitless innings but had to work around four walks.  Rodriguez (0-1) suffered the loss for the Pioneers.

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