KODAK, Tenn. – Carson-Newman overcame a 3-1 deficit after five innings and Will Gardner hurled his fifth complete game of 2017 to help the Eagles eliminate Coker on the opening day of the South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championships Thursday evening at Smokies Stadium.
"Both clubs played very well tonight," Carson-Newman coach Tom Griffin said. "That was a well-played game. Will was an absolute bulldog. Defensively you have to make some plays. Jimmy Rice's play was absolutely outstanding. You need timely hitting. What Brendan [Campbell] and Brett [Langhorne] did – that's how you win ball games. I'm very proud of our efforts tonight and we had great support which is great to see."
Carson-Newman (26-22) advances to the double elimination portion of the tournament to play top-seeded and No. 15 Catawba at noon while Coker (22-23) is eliminated from postseason play.
Greg Jones (Maryville, Tenn.) led off the top of the second inning swinging at the first pitch and smacking it off of the fence in left-center field for a double. Cade Snapp (Seymour, Tenn.) floated a single to center field to put men at the corners. On a 0-1 pitch, Brett Langhorne (Mechiancsville, Va.) laid down a squeeze bunt first base side that allowed Jones to cross the plate and put the Eagles on top 1-0.
Coker loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the third. Thomas Lopez struck out swinging for the second out of the frame. Darius Coldiron ripped a single into right field to score Lake Lybrand to tie the score. Bryson Conner attempted to cross the plate but was thrown out on a throw by Trever Lee (Garner, N.C.) in right field.
A.J. Strnad lined a single to left field to ignite a two-run rally for the Cobras in the fourth inning. The senior stole second base with one out and scored on an RBI double to left-center field Clint Allen to give the No. 6 seed the lead. A passed ball moved Allen to third base before he scored on a sacrifice fly to right field to make it a 3-1 affair.
Carson-Newman tied the score with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning to equalize the score at three. Snapp doubled down the left-field line with one out and Langhorne pushed a base hit through the right side of the infield. Lee grounded out to second base to score Snapp. Brendan Campbell (Yardley, Pa.) laced a single into center field to score Langhorne from second base to pull the Eagles even at three.
In the top of the eighth inning, Griffin's group took the lead at 4-3. Jones drew a walk to open the inning on a seven-pitch at-bat. Hunter Wood (College Grove, Tenn.) entered to pinch run and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Snapp. Langhorne roped a 2-2 pitch down the right-field line to plate Wood for his 32nd RBI of the season.
Gardner, the leader in the league in complete games, allowed three runs, two earned on seven hits and two walks while punching out eight batters. The junior improves his record to 6-3.
Langhorne went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored as Snapp and Addington each notched a couple knocks in the late-night affair.
"I love it," Langhorne said of being in big spots. "Having your teammates on behind you and with you every step of the way. We are doing it for our seniors. We have a lot of great seniors out here. To battle for them is just tremendous."
Griffin Hollifield, a second-team All-SAC pick, took his third loss of the year giving up an earned run in 2 2/3 innings pitched allowing three hits and a walk with two punch outs.
Broadcast coverage for Friday's game starts at 11:45 a.m. on cneagles.com/live with audio and video streams available courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network.
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