Catawba outlasts Tornados in thriller

Box Score

BREVARD, N.C. – In another tense contest with the Southeast Region’s tenth-ranked team and defending national runners-up Catawba, Brevard fell a run short by a 9-8 margin despite an impressive offensive performance and solid work from the bullpen.

The Catawba Indians (23-11, 13-5 SAC) broke a six-all tie with three runs off Jay Phillips in the seventh inning, scoring just enough runs for the victory on consecutive doubles by Jake Kimble and Dylan Richardson. They were the only runs Phillips would allow in his 5.0 innings of long relief, scattering five hits while punching out five Catawba batters on strikes.

Brevard (12-27, 3-15 SAC) mounted an eighth-inning comeback against four different Catawba pitchers. Singles by Christian Dix and Hunter Donaldson sandwiched around Ryan Smith reaching on a hit by pitch loaded the bases with one out. Brennan Allen reached on an RBI fielder’s choice to the shortstop to score Dix, but his throw to the plate sailed wide, allowing Smith to slide in under the tag for an unearned run that cut the deficit to 9-8.

Phillips allowed a two-out infield single in the ninth before Hunter Donaldson turned in the defensive play of the game. Kimble sent a screaming line drive toward left field, but Donaldson, playing third base for just the ninth time this season, used every bit of his 6’2” frame to spear the ball at the apex of his leap and give the Tornados a chance in the ninth.

Caleb Jones led off the inning, shooting an outside pitch to the right of the second base bag and into center field on an 0-2 count. Brayden Morris then advanced Jones to second with a sacrifice bunt that he pushed up the first base line on a two-strike count.

Pinch hitter Kyle Morrison worked a seven-pitch walk to put two runners on with one out, but the Tornados were unable to complete the comeback as the next two hitters hit into a fielder’s choice and flew out to right field, respectively.

Jones’ ninth-inning single cemented a 4-for-5 day at the plate, his first-career four-hit outing, that included an RBI and a run scored. The sophomore center fielder reached safely in all five plate appearances, including on a fielding error in the second inning, to raise his batting average to .317 on the season.

Hunter Donaldson had an identical stat line to Jones, while designated hitter Ryan Smith was 1-for-4 but crossed the plate three times. He extended his reached-base streak to 13 consecutive games, one from matching his season-high. Christian Dix was 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored.

Brevard’s offense scored in five of its nine trips to the plate, never totaling more than two runs in an inning. The Tornados’ 11 hits gives the team double-digit hits in six of its last eight contests, including all three games of the weekend series.

Sunday’s game concludes a brutal stretch of five consecutive games against regionally-ranked opponents. The Tornados host Young Harris on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. in a nonconference matchup.

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Featured image courtesy of Neil Hayes. Click here to view more photos by Neil.

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