Kirkpatrick’s single gives Eagles walk-off 4-3 win in home opener

Kirkpatrick’s single gives Eagles walk-off 4-3 win in home opener

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With the score tied at three with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, junior outfielder Evan Kirkpatrick (Jefferson City, Tenn.) drove the first pitch he saw down the right field line past a diving Matthew Profitt to score senior second basemen Peter Rajkovich (Stockton, Calif.) and give the Carson-Newman Eagles (4-1, 1-0 South Atlantic Conference) a 4-3 win over the Brevard Tornados (1-1, 0-1 SAC) Friday afternoon at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex. 

"I was looking for something to hit, a fastball in the zone." Kirkpatrick said after the game. "Luckily he threw it and I threw my bat at it and got a pretty good hit." 

Rajkovich was hit by a pitch with one out in the ninth and freshman catcher Greg Jones (Maryville, Tenn.) drew a walk to put runners at first and second base. Sophomore designated hitter Joe Tipton lined out to left field to set the stage for Kirkpatrick, who went 2-for-5 with a two RBIs.

"In conference play, every inning is a battle," head coach Tom Griffin said about the victory. "I don't think there are leads that are safe. The mindset is much better for hitters being down by a run versus three or four runs."

The Eagles jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on an RBI single by senior second basemen Trace Rogers (Simpsonville, S.C.) and an RBI groundout by sophomore catcher Gooch Greer (Dickson, Tenn.) in the second inning.

Brevard answered with a run in the top of the fourth inning when Eric Renegar drove home Chad Fisher with a two-out single to left field.

Carson-Newman starting pitcher Quinton Yocom (Cable, Ohio) had allowed just three hits in the first six innings, but induced three double plays. He went back out to start the seventh. The senior promptly allowed back-to-back singles. The runners moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Profitt. After the Tornados loaded the bases on a fielder's choice, Bennett Hixson lined a single back up the middle to give the visiting squad a 3-2 lead.

"He's a very competitive kid," Griffin said of Yocom. "The double plays were crucial. Honestly, we were one batter too late getting him out. As coaches, you are second-guessing sometimes on what move you oughta make. The thing is you trust your guy."

Senior reliever Lucas Watson came in and induced a pop-up by Ryan Ahlum that junior shortstop Bryan Everhart (Greeneville, Tenn.) caught Alex McGee leaning off of second base to double him up and end the frame.

The home team tied the score in the seventh inning. After Everhart flew out, Rogers singled and Greer reached on an error by Hixson at first base. Tipton laced a single into left field to load the bases. Kirkpatrick, who extended his consecutive on-base streak to 12 games, hit into a fielder's choice as he hustled down the first base line to prevent a double play.

Senior relief pitcher Daniel Sharp (Johnson City, Tenn.) earned the win, his first since March 30, 2013 at Lincoln Memorial in hurling 1.2 innings.

"We talk about enjoying the wins," Griffin said about tomorrow's doubleheader. "We'll get ready for tomorrow and we write it on the board, next pitch. When we get here, we'll worry about the first pitch."

The Eagles will send senior right-hander Dustin Dunagan (Winder, Ga.) and sophomore southpaw Vince Apicella (Dillsburg, Pa.) to the mound tomorrow for a doubleheader. Game one's first pitch is at noon on Saturday. Coverage begins at 11:50 a.m. on the Eagle Sports Network.