BRISTOL, Tenn. – Friday afternoon featured two teams vying for an advantage in the Conference Carolinas standings as the postseason draws nearer. Each team exchanged a series of offensive blows featuring a combined 31 runs, 43 hits, and a big win for each side of Friday's doubleheader between the King Tornado and Pfeiffer Falcons. The series will be decided in Saturday's rubber match, beginning at 12:00 p.m. at the King College Baseball Complex.
GAME ONE: Pfeiffer 14, King 4
Through four innings the Falcons and Tornado battled back and forth toward a 2-2 score but beginning in the fifth frame, Pfeiffer exploded for 12 runs over their last five plate appearances. Pfeiffer defeated King 14-4 in game one.
Pfeiffer took an early 1-0 lead after a Shane Timberlake error in the field allowed Jacob Yates to score from third, but King got the run back in the third when the Tornado used small ball and sophomore Cody Snyder's run-scoring single to score Brad Blanton. Both teams swapped runs in the fourth to maintain a tie ball game but the Falcon offense began to open up on Tornado starter Reiss Stanley in the fifth behind a trio of run-scoring doubles from the bottom of the PU lineup.
After taking a 5-3 lead into the sixth, the Falcons had their second of three three-run innings in the game. From the fifth inning on, the six through nine hitters in the Pfeiffer lineup combined 8-for-13, scored five runs, and recorded 10 RBI. Led by Cole McGraw, Pfeiffer outscored King 12-2 over the last five innings. McGraw finished the game 3-for-6 with four RBI and three runs scored. He finished a home run short of the cycle.
Tyler Gaby (Bristol, Tenn.) led the Tornado with three hits in his first three at bats and one RBI. Snyder also had multiple hits, going 2-for-5 with a run batted in. Stanley (4-4) took the loss, allowing five runs over 4.2 innings.
GAME TWO: Pfeiffer 2, King 11 (F/7)
King earned its redemption in game two with an 11-2 win to end the day's action. Gaby continued his hot hitting with a 2-for-3 day at the plate, reaching base all four times he went to bat, and scored three of those four times. The Tornado cranked out three home runs, including a pair from sophomore first baseman Hunter Smith.
Josh Huffman (Lynchburg, Va.) hit the first of three King home runs in the first inning off of PU starter Bryan Tuttle. Tyler Gaby led the game off reaching on an error by Pfeiffer second baseman Preston Lyon and came around to score when Huffman launched a liner over the left field wall for a 2-0 lead.
Pfeiffer scored one run in both the first and second innings to tie the game, but King burst out with nine unanswered runs from the bottom of the third inning on. After a Cody Snyder (Bluff City, Tenn./Tennessee High) RBI single gave King a 3-2 lead, Hunter Smith (Bristol, Tenn./Sullivan East) went yard with a two-run shot over the left center field fence.
Up 5-2 in the fifth King poured out four hits, all for extra bases, and six runs to go up on the Falcons by nine runs. Stephen Mullins led the inning off with a triple to the right center field gap and scored on Heath Williams' RBI double that found the right field corner. After King loaded the bases with walks to the next two hitters, Huffman cleared the bases by legging out a triple on a ball hit just out of the reach of a diving Cole McGraw in left. After the three-bagger by Huffman, Hunter Smith stepped to the plate again and cranked a no doubter well over the 400-foot sign in center, clearing the batter's eye to score a pair of runs and cap the six-run inning.
The Tornado's 11 runs were more than enough to support sophomore right hander Cory Rhodes (Kissimmee, Fla.) in earning his fifth complete game of the season. He watched his season earned run average dip below 3.00 allowing just two runs over seven innings on the hill. Rhodes (6-2) struck out six batters and retired nine of his last 11 batters faced and did not allow a runner past second base beyond the third inning. He also struck out four of the last six outs recorded in the game, including three in the sixth inning.
Smith finished the day with four RBI on a 2-for-3 day from the plate. Huffman outdid his teammate with five RBI and three hits on four plate appearances. Stephen Mullins also finished with a pair of hits and a run scored.
The series will come down to Saturday (April 7) afternoon's rubber match that is set to begin at 12:00 p.m. The Falcons (20-18, 11-9) and Tornado (22-14, 11-9) will meet once again at the King College Baseball Complex.
With the split, both teams remain tied for fourth in Conference Carolinas, based on winning percentage. Erskine College swept St. Andrews on Friday, also placing them with an 11-9 league record and a share for the tie of fourth place. Erskine swept King but lost 2-of-3 earlier this season against Pfeiffer.