MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – King College Baseball started their 2012 slate the right way, upsetting No. 26 Georgia College and nearly stealing away a second victory in an opening day doubleheader held Friday afternoon. The Tornado defeated the Bobcats, 9-5, in game one before a four-run sixth inning stole away the sweep in a 5-4 defeat.
GAME 1 – King 9, Georgia College 5 (F/9)
In his first start of the year, Cory Rhodes set the tone for the Tornado while receiving plenty of run support in King's season-opening upset of the Georgia College Bobcats, ranked 23rd in the country in NCAA Division II. Jerrod Payne (Johnson City, Tenn.) locked down the bottom of the order going 2-for-4 with a run scored and four runs batted in to help in the effort, but the day belonged to the sophomore, Rhodes.
The Kissimmee, Fla. native finished with seven strikeouts on 23 batters faced and walked only two on the day. He started the season getting Josh Young to strike out swinging before fanning three more Bobcats over the next two innings, including dispensing the bottom of the GC order looking in consecutive at-bats. His lone run allowed came unearned in the first inning on a throwing error in the field by Payne. The Bobcats did not cross the plate until after Rhodes left the game in the seventh.
King plated two in the top of the second inning when Payne made up for his error in the field with a two-run double from the eight-spot in the order. Bryant Walker (Knoxville, Tenn.) reached base on a fielding error by GC third baseman Travis Echols followed by a single by Josh Huffman (Lynchburg, Va.) to center field. Payne stepped to the plate with the bases loaded after a sacrifice bunt and fielder's choice filled the base paths. He delivered a double down the left field line, scoring Walker (unearned) and Huffman to take a 2-1 lead.
The Tornado burst open in the sixth with five runs, taking advantage of a pair of walks and aggressive base running at the top of the inning. King loaded the bases with no outs when Payne stepped to the plate again and singled up the middle to deliver his third and fourth RBI of the day. Shane Timberlake (Lynchburg, Va.) followed up with a single through the left side of the infield to score the Tornado's third run of the inning. After the lineup turned over, Tyler Orndorff (Stephenson, Va.) sacrificed Timberlake to second but Payne took off for home on the throw over to first. As Payne scored safely, Timberlake continued hustling and advanced to third on the play, setting up for Cory Snyder's RBI grounder to the right side. By inning's end, King took a commanding 7-1 lead.
Rhodes (1-0) motored through six innings of work, allowing on two runners on base over his last three innings and only one runner to reach second base after the first inning. The Bobcats scored twice in the seventh inning and twice more in the ninth against King relievers, but the Tornado won game one, 9-5.
Three King hitters registered multi-hit days, including Garrett Cook (Luray, Va.) who went 2-for-4 with a run scored and one RBI. The bottom of the order pulled through for King, combining to go 6-for-16 (.375), six RBI, and five runs scored.
GAME 2 – King 4, Georgia College 5 (F/7)
King and Georgia College engaged in a second shortened game to be played in seven innings. With a 2-1 lead heading into the sixth inning, Georgia College scored four in the home half of the sixth to take enough of a lead to hold off for a 5-4 win in the nightcap.
King bounced out to an early 2-0 lead after the third inning, plating a run in both the second and third frames. In the second inning, Garrett Cook led off with a double into the left-center field and advanced to third on the next batter. He came around as a result of a fielding error by the Bobcats' third baseman, though Stephen Mullins (Bluff City, Tenn.) received the RBI having judge to be conceding the run. In the third, Cory Snyder led off with a single to left field and later scored with aggressive base running when Walker put down a bunt.
Georgia College halved when Karsten Strieby hit a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the fifth. The Bobcats added with a four-run sixth inning against King's Nick Melcher (Orlando, Fla.), scoring their two through five hitters in order. Patrick Daugherty led the inning off with a double to left field, followed by a single to left center by Tanner Funk. Melcher loaded the bases with a walk to Travis Echols and allowed the tying run to score on a second consecutive walk to Strieby. A sacrifice fly and balk call helped plate the go-ahead runs before Heine Rivera plated the eventual game-winning run on a single to right.
King nearly made a comeback to complete the sweep of the day but fell one run short of tying the ball game up and forcing extra innings. Georgia College surrendered two unearned runs after a single and fielding error on an attempted double play turn set the table for King second baseman, Cory Snyder. The sophomore ripped a two-out single up the middle to score both runners and come within a run of the Bobcats, but the game ended when Derek Wiltgen finished his seven-inning complete game, striking out Brandon Reed looking.
Carl Roberts (Blountville, Tenn.) quietly led the Tornado with four hits between his two games, going 4-for-6 (.667) with a pair of walks in the season opener. Garrett Cook swiped two bags and went 3-for-7 (.429). Head Coach Blaine Brown earned his first victory as a collegiate head coach with the opening win.
King begins their season 1-1 as they did a season ago when splitting with current No. 1 Francis Marion. The Tornado and Bobcats return to the diamond Saturday at noon from John Kurtz Field (Milledgeville, Ga.) to conclude the series.