May 12, 2011

King moves into title game with win over Bluefield

Williams (Bristol, Va.) lined a double to left in the bottom of the sixth with two outs and two in scoring position. Bryant Walker (Knoxville, Tenn.) walked with one down and then a Garrett Cook (Luray, Va.) single to left put runners on the corner. Before the single Walker advanced to second on an error on a pickoff attempt. Williams lined the double after Shane Timberlake (Lynchburg, Va.) popped out. Cook got into scoring position by stealing second with Timberlake at the plate.

Williams finished 2-for-3, the only multi-hit effort for a Tornado player. Walker did reach twice with walks.

With the win, third-seeded King faces Covenant (Ga.) College, the No. 6 seed, at noon Friday for the NCCAA Mid-East Region Championship and the automatic bid to the NCCAA Division I World Series next week in Mason, Ohio. Last season King defeated host Covenant twice to secure the NCCAA Mid-East Region crown with wins of 15-2 and 3-1. Covenant moved into the championship round after defeating No. 4 seed Mid-Continent (Ky.) University 9-1 in the day's second contest.

Bluefield got into the day's final game after sending top-seed Asbury (Ky.) University home with a 5-4 score to start action Thursday.

King tied things in the bottom of the fifth at 2-2. C.J. Stabler (Kingsport, Tenn.) hit a grounder to short with the bases loaded and one out. On the play Cody Snyder (Bluff City, Tenn.) was forced out at second after his walk, but Bluefield's second baseman, Weaver, uncorked a throw into the King dugout allowing a second run to score on the play. Timberlake scored the first run for Stabler's RBI after he started the frame with a single. Tyler Gaby (Bristol, Tenn.) was the runner at second when the play started for the game-tying run.

Bluefield got the lead, 1-0, with three straight two-out singles in the third capped by the hit by Eli Smurthwaite. Smurthwaite drove in another Ram run with a sacrifice fly as the bases were loaded in the fifth. The Bluefield scores were the first runs allowed by the King pitching staff in the NCCAA Mid-East Region Tournament.

The Tornado's Danny Laperna (Lake Worth, Fla.) went six innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts. His record improved to 5-4. Nick Melcher (Orlando, Fla.) recorded the final two outs for the save, his second of 2011. David Prichard (Hamilton, Ohio) got the first out of the seventh inning.

King's record improved to 25-22 behind a five-game winning streak, the longest of 2011. The Tornado defeated Covenant the last five games in Bristol. In 2009 King swept the series with scores of 4-3, 6-5 and 9-5. The 2007 Tornado squad won 6-1 and 4-3 over the Scots.

A day earlier King sent Bluefield into the losers' bracket with a 1-0 victory.

Bluefield, at 28-28 on the season and runner-up at last year's NCCAA World Series and 2009 NCCAA National Champion, got two hits from both Travis Weaver and Joe Gatewood.

The Rams' Josh McQuade went the distance with four runs, three earned, on eight hits. He walked four and struck out three.