Catawba sweeps pair of tense affairs

BREVARD, N.C. – The Tornados gave defending national runner-up Catawba all it could handle in Saturday afternoon baseball action at Gil Coan Field, bringing the potential tying run to the plate in the final inning of a pair of losses by 7-5 and 8-6 scores.

Brevard (12-26, 3-14 SAC) was paced by Christian Dix at the plate, who raised his batting average 25 percentage points to a gaudy .358 with a 6-for-8 day that included one run scored and two batted in. The Tornados pounded out 24 hits on the day, including 13 hits in seven innings during Game Two.

The Tornados’ defense, known for its knack at turning double plays, tallied one twin killing in each of the first three innings of Game One. But Brevard went on to commit six errors, including three in a disastrous ninth inning, that helped Catawba (22-11, 12-5 SAC) secure its first win of the afternoon.

The ninth began in a 5-5 tie thanks to Dix’s first home run of the season, a towering solo shot through powerful, gusting winds that landed on the roof of the batting cage facility beyond the left field fence in the bottom of the eighth. But the Indians scored a pair of unearned runs on three Brevard errors to snatch the lead away.

Brevard loaded the bases on a Kody Spencer single, a pitch that caught Pat Quinn squarely on the knuckles, and a nine-pitch Blaine Durham walk with one out. Catawba’s Bryan Blanton, however, proved he was up to the task, striking out Brayden Morris and Kyle Morrison to end the threat and earn his third save of the season.

Drake Black suffered the loss despite not giving up a hit in 1.2 innings on the mound. He entered the game with one out in the eighth in relief of starter Kyle Pittman, who allowed five runs on 12 hits to earn the no-decision. Pittman was a workhorse, toughing out a difficult first inning that saw six of the first seven Catawba batters reach safely and three runs cross the plate. He strengthened as the game went on, including setting down the Indians in order in the fifth and seventh frames.

Both pitching staffs struggled in the second game of the afternoon, with the bottom of the third representing the only one of the game’s 14 half-innings in which a team went down 1-2-3. Brevard scored three times in the second, its biggest blow coming on a two-run single by Parker Hubbard, before Catawba climbed back into the contest with two runs in the third and three in the fifth.

A two-run double by Catawba’s Chance Bowden turned a 5-4 lead into a three-run cushion before the Indians tacked on an insurance run in the seventh. Trailing 8-4, Caleb Jones launched a two-run homer to left field with two outs to complete his first-ever three hit contest, notch his second run and second and third RBI’s of the afternoon, and put Brevard back in contention.

Moments later, Schuyler Martire rolled a 3-1 pitch through the left side to cement a 3-for-4 day of his own and bring the tying run to the plate. But DJ Laxton induced a game-ending fielder’s choice to the only batter he faced to earn his first save of 2016.

Brevard hosts Catawba tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. in the final game of the series.

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