King drops conference-opening series to Pfeiffer

Photo taken by Rachel Burrus

BRISTOL, Tenn. – The King University baseball team tried to bounce back from their series-opening loss on Friday afternoon when they took on Pfeiffer University in a doubleheader Saturday. The Tornado had a lead early in game one, but the Falcons tied the game before winning the contest 3-1 with two runs in the top of the seventh. King nearly came back from a five-run deficit in the nightcap, but came up just short, falling 7-6.

Cory Rhodes came out and quickly put up a pair of scoreless frames in the first two innings before the Tornado offense gave him the lead. Garrett Cook started the bottom of the second inning with a bunt single, and after an out was sacrificed to second. Justin Trent walked to bring Landon Weitekamp to the plate, who came up with the two-out hit. With the runners in motion, Weitekamp rolled a hit through the left side of the infield to give King (6-16-1, 0-3 CC) the early lead.

Rhodes, along with Pfeiffer pitcher Keith Little then settled in during the middle innings as the score remained the same until the Falcons (14-7, 5-1 CC) broke through in the fourth. Cole McGraw started the inning with a double, and later came in to score on a Zach Scudder groundout to even the score.

The Falcons then grabbed the lead in the seventh inning as Anthony Allende started the frame with a double. After a walk and a single loaded the bases with one out, Dylan Goodman gave the Falcons the lead with a two-run single up the middle. Rhodes then got a double play to avoid further damage and give King a chance to comeback in the bottom of the inning.

Hunter Smith registered a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh, but the Tornado could not push any runs across as they fell 3-1. Rhodes threw all seven innings and allowed three runs, two earned on six hits while striking out eight. Five Tornado hitters recorded a hit and Weitekamp drove in the lone Tornado run.

Pfeiffer wasted no time getting on the board in the nightcap as Jon Gray started the game with a single to left field. He later came in to score on an Allende double to center to give the Falcons a 1-0 after the top of the first. The Falcons extended their lead to 2-0 in the third, and could have scored more, but Eric Stapleton came in and stranded runners on second and third.

The Tornado got on the board with an unearned run in the third, and evened the score in the fourth on a Preston Douglas single through the right side that scored Stephen Mullins.

The score remained tied until Pfeiffer looked to break the game open with three runs in the sixth inning, all coming on a McGraw single to regain the lead. Pfeiffer added two insurance runs, which turned out to be important runs, in the eighth inning, taking a 7-2 lead.

J.D. Wallace crushed his first home run of the season in the eighth inning before Weitekamp sparked a rally in the ninth inning. A Joe Ganger walk, and Tyler Gaby single loaded the bases for Smith. A wild pitch scored run, and Smith followed with a single to center that scored two, and pulled King within 7-6 with only one out. However, the Falcons brought in their closer, Dylan Norris, and he got a line drive to second base that turned into a double play to end the game, giving Pfeiffer the sweep.

Stapleton took the loss as he worked five and one-thirds innings in relief, allowing three runs on four hits. Cook, Douglas, and Moises Soto all registered two hits to lead the King offense.

King will be in action again on Monday when they host Mars Hill University at 3:00 p.m.