WILSON, N.C. – The King Tornado provided an offensive outburst strong enough to support starting pitcher Cory Rhodes, as the sophomore went all the way on the mound for the No. 4 seed Tornado. They defeated the Pfeiffer University Falcons, ranked third in the tournament, by a score of 9-4 in the opening game of the 2012 Conference Carolinas Baseball Tournament.
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King came out swinging and behind Bryant Walker's fourth home run of the year put up a five spot in the second inning to take an early 5-0 lead. Walker, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., achieved what many natives to the park say is one of the hardest tasks to accomplish in hitting a home run to dead center field, measured at 405 feet.
Freshman Stephen Mullins (Bluff City, Tenn.) hit a one-out single to right field and was followed by a four-pitch walk delivered to Garrett Cook. After Pfeiffer pitcher Tyler Ring (4-3, 4.36) fell behind 1-0, Walker took the next pitch and belted it to straightaway center field to clear the bases and give King a 3-0 lead.
Following up behind Walker's homer, Ring walked his second batter of the inning before Tyler Gaby (Bluff City, Tenn.) sent him home with a run-scoring triple that was just out of the reach of right fielder Jacob Yates. Cody Snyder (Bluff City, Tenn., Tennessee High) drove in King's fifth run of the inning with a RBI single down the left field line by Josh Huffman (Lynchburg, Va.).
Pfeiffer got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning when Dalton Lindley's ground out to short scored Preston Lyon from third, making the score 5-1. Lyon led the inning off with a shot off the center field fence and legged out three bags for his first triple and 14th extra-base hit of the season.
The Falcons brought the game to within a run in the bottom of the seventh when Jacob Yates hit a triple to the right field corner, scoring Cole McGraw. On the relay to third, the throw by King second baseman Cody Snyder was in the dirt and skipped away, allowing Yates to score and cut the lead to one run.
King responded in a big way with another towering shot, this time off of the bat of designated hitter Josh Huffman. Prior to the home run, the Tornado knocked Pfeiffer starter Tyler Ring out of the game with Cody Snyder's RBI single, giving King a 6-4 lead. Shane Timberlake (Lynchburg, Va.) led the inning off with his second hit of the day, a single to right, before Tyler Gaby was hit in the midsection by a pitch. Snyder entered the box and roped a since to center, scoring Timberlake from second.
The Tornado were not done. Following a pitching change that brought Michael Crespo into the game, Josh Huffman broke the righty in with a laser that flew over the left field fence and into the youth league field beyond the wall. The three-run blast put King up 9-4, more than enough to turn over to King starter Cory Rhodes.
Rhodes (8-2, 3.11) showed no signs of struggle any point of the contest, especially late when he strolled through the last two innings, shutting the Falcons down in order in the eighth and ninth innings. Rhodes (W, 9-2) put the down the Falcon lineup without issue in three of the last four innings. The Kissimmee, Fla. native struck out five Falcons and walked no one. Over his nine innings, he allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits. The complete game was his seventh of the season. He now has a team-high 74 strikeouts on the season.
Cody Snyder and Stephen Mullins led the team with three hits each with six singles between the two of them. Snyder also had one run scored and two RBI, plating one with his first and third base hits of the day. Bryant Walker and Josh Huffman each has three RBI coming on each of their home runs. It was Huffman's fifth home run of the season and Walker's fourth.
King registered 14 total eights while accumulating their nine runs. Every member of the team that tallied a hit in the box score had at least two on the day.
Tyler Ring took the loss for Pfeiffer, allowing five runs on eight hits. He walked four and struck out only two. Jacob Yates and Cole McGraw each had two hits to lead the team. Yates had a team-high two RBI for the Falcons.
King (28-17) will play the winner of North Greenville/Belmont Abbey on Friday evening. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. from historic Fleming Stadium at the Wilson Tobs Field in Wilson, N.C.
An updated following the NGU/BAC game will be provided after its conclusion. The game is currently in progress.
Follow the Tornado baseball team as it continues its run toward a 2012 Conference Carolinas Championship from the online home of the conference tournament by clicking here.