KODAK, Tenn. – Tusculum scored the final seven runs of a Sunday evening contest at Smokies Stadium at Pioneer Park to eliminate Carson-Newman with a 9-7 victory in the South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championships.
It was the first win of the year for the Pioneers (35-16) against the Eagles (31-21) in five tries as C-N scored four wins against a single opponent for the fifth time in the last 15 years.
"That was classic Tusculum and Carson-Newman," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "The environment was outstanding. A lot of credit to Tusculum. They had to battle after what happened in the first game and coming back and beating Wingate the way they did. I told [Tusculum coach] Doug [Jones] that I don't like losing but I'm for his team and his staff. It's a first-class operation. The players are first class.
"To reflect on the year, it all starts with our leadership. Our seniors did an outstanding job. I can't say enough on how they led on and off. I'm so proud of them and they are going to be very successful in what they do. Our coaching staff was outstanding. I couldn't ask for a better staff. Our administration, Dr. O'Brien, staying here until one in the morning. Everyone in our athletic department and university is so supportive. To see all of our alumni here, it's really special."
The Pioneers loaded the bases with the first three batters in the top of the first inning without hitting a ball outside of the infield. J.J. Wesley squibbed a ball up the third base line for an infield single. A fielding error by junior shortstop Jimmy Rice (Middlesex, N.J.) and a bunt single by Kevin Victoriano had the bases juiced. Nick Lacina stepped in and laced a two-run single into right field to put the third-seed ahead 2-0. After a sacrifice bunt, the Eagles went to the bullpen for junior Robert Plohr (O'Fallon, Mo.). Plohr walked the first man he faced before inducing a 4-6-3 double play to end the frame.
Junior center fielder Ryan Addington looped a base hit down the left-field line and Rice walked to start the bottom of the first inning. Following a strikeout and a pop-out, the Eagles put the runners in motion. Each base runner stole a base and on a wild pitch that went back to the backstop, Addington raced around third to score and pull the Eagles within a run.
Carson-Newman scored six times on just two hits in the bottom of fourth inning to take a 7-2 advantage. A walk and two hit batters were sandwiched around a strikeout to load the bases. A four-pitch walk to junior first baseman Paul Kirby (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) and a wild pitch gave the Eagles the lead. Addington hit a fly ball to left field after a punch out and the left fielder slipped allowing the ball to trickle to the fence for a bases-clearing triple. Addington scored on a base hit to right field by Rice to make it a 7-6 contest.
In the top of the fifth inning, the first three batters were walked to load the bases. Creighton Wilke stepped in and cranked a 2-2 offering over the right-field fence just inside of the fair pole to pull Tusculum within a run at 7-6.
J.J. Wesley singled to center field to begin the top of the sixth inning and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Two wild pitches allowed Wesley to score and tie the game at seven.
With one out in the top of the eighth inning, Victoriano singled to center field and scored on a double by Lacina down the left-field line to give the third-seed the lead at 8-7 and the Pioneers added a run in the top of the ninth inning on a passed ball.
Carson-Newman finishes the year with 31 wins, the most since the 2010 campaign while the 18 wins at home were the third-most since joining the D2 ranks.
The pitching staff recorded 369 total strikeouts passing the 1999 team's mark of 366 for the most in a single campaign during Division II eligibility.
The Eagles clubbed 55 home runs overall on the year, the fifth-most since the school moved to Division II in 1994 as sophomore Cade Snapp (Seymour, Tenn.) hit 16 homers, sixth-most.
With 25 stolen bases, Addington finishes with sixth-most stolen bases in a single season.
Senior southpaw Vince Apicella (Dillsburg, Pa.) finishes with 10 wins, the fifth-most by a pitcher in C-N D2 history, first with two shutouts in a season and recorded two of the top three seasons in terms of strikeouts in the D2 era.
Senior right-hander Dustin Batson (Pisgah Forest, N.C.) moved into 10th-place on the school's strikeout list with 79 on the season.
With 13 complete games as a unit, the group finished tied with the 1996 unit for third-most complete games since 1994.
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