GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – With the tying run at third base in the bottom of the ninth inning, Raunel Perez threw three straight fastballs, his only pitches of the day, capped by a swing a miss from Dante Key to end the game and give Carson-Newman a 10-9 win, a series sweep over Tusculum and the No. 2 seed in the upcoming South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championships Sunday afternoon at Pioneer Park.
The victory gave Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin his 500th career win with 184 of those wins coming as the skipper for Tusculum.
"It was a typical battle with Tusculum," Griffin said. "The game is never over. Both teams battled very well with two strikes and two outs. It was an outstanding game. We told the team regardless of what happens this weekend, they represented this program in a first-class manner on the field and off the field. Our upperclassmen were great leaders and mentors. We are fortunate to be where we are at."
The Eagles (29-19, 14-10) are the second-seed for the first time since the 2008 campaign when the Eagles reached the NCAA Tournament field.
It was the first time that C-N swept Tusculum (32-15, 14-10) at Pioneer Park since the facility opened in 2004 and the third time that Eagles swept the Pioneers on the road since they joined the SAC pairing with the 2000 and 2002 groups.
The Eagles scored three runs in the top of the third inning to take a 3-0 lead. With one out, senior catcher Gooch Greer (Dickson, Tenn.) lined a single to right field and junior center fielder Ryan Addington (Cincinnati, Ohio) slapped a base hit to left field to put two runners on base. Following a fly out, senior third baseman Brandon Roberts (Davie, Fla.) laced a single just passed the shortstop to score Greer. Sophomore left fielder Cade Snapp (Seymour, Tenn.) roped a double down the left-field line to plate Addington and Roberts.
The Pioneers had runners at the corners in the bottom of the third inning as Creighton Wilke floated a base hit to left field to make it a 3-1 contest, but Tusculum left the bases loaded in the frame.
Junior first baseman Paul Kirby (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) started the top of the fourth inning with his first home run since March 8 with a first-pitch dinger over the left-field wall. Junior shortstop Jimmy Rice (Middlesex, N.J.) doubled to the left-center field wall and scored on an RBI single to center field by junior second baseman Eric Lynch (Boonton, N.J.). With two on and two outs, freshman right fielder Ian Pung (Knoxville, Tenn.) pushed a ball over the top of a drawn-in infield to score pair and came in to score on a double to left by Snapp. The Eagles batted around and scored five runs in the fourth to take an 8-1 lead.
Tusculum sent 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning and scored four times to pull within three runs at 8-5. Zack Finchum had an RBI single to left field, Jeovanny Tolentino hit a sacrifice fly with the scoring being capped on a two-run single to right field by J.J. Wesley with two outs.
After the first two batters were retired in the bottom of the eighth inning, Wilke drove a 2-1 pitch to the right field side of the batter's eye in center field for his sixth home run of the year to pull the Pionners to a two-run deficit at 8-6.
Snapp doubled with one out in the top of the ninth inning and scored on a two-out double to left field by Kirby. Rice hammered a triple just out of the reach of Tusculum's center fielder to score Kirby and add to lead making it 10-6.
Tusculum loaded the bases with two outs in the last of the ninth on two singles and a throwing error. Tanner Maloof tripled off of the wall in right field to make it a one-run game. Perez (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) was summoned from the bullpen to face pinch-hitter Key and struck him out to end the game and pick up his third save of the year.
The Eagles pounded out a season-high six doubles as Tusculum's pitching staff allowed the most hit in a nine-inning game in 2016 as C-N had 16.
Addington reached base five times on the day as he went 3-for-3 with two runs scored, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Snapp went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three doubles. Rice collected three hits and five at-bats while Kirby drove in a pair of runs and scored twice while going 2-for-5.
Carson-Newman starting pitcher Dustin Batson (Pisgah Forest, N.C.) picked up a win for the second straight day going six innings allowing five earned runs on six hits and five walks with four strikeouts.
The Eagles will begin play in the double elimination SAC Championships Friday afternoon at Smokies Stadium at 3:45 p.m. against the highest remaining seed from the first slate of games on Thursday evening. The contest will be broadcast with video and audio streams on cneagles.com/live as the Eagle Sports Network will go on the air 10 minutes prior to first pitch.
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