HICKORY, N.C. – The King University baseball team jumped out of conference to take on Lenoir-Rhyne University on Tuesday evening, and the Tornado grabbed an early lead over the Bears. However, Lenoir-Rhyne came storming back with seven runs in two innings to take the contest 9-3.
Tom Hooker ripped a one-out double down the left field line in the top of the first before Hunter Smith drove him in with a two-out double to center field, giving King a 1-0 lead. The Bears (12-28) threatened with a pair of runners in the bottom of the first, but King pitcher Tyler Raymond got a flyout and popout to end the threat.
The Tornado (14-27-1) struck again in the second inning when Justin Trent led off the inning with his third home run of the season. Moises Soto later sparked a two-out rally with a walk before Tyler Gaby crushed a double down the left field line to score Soto and stretch the King lead to 3-0 after two innings.
Lenoir-Rhyne got on the board in the third inning Raymond got the first two outs before Josh Murphy started a rally with a single to left center. Ivan Vieitez followed with a double to left center, scoring Murphy. Vieitez moved to third on a throwing error after the double, and score on a wild pitch to cut the Bear deficit to 3-2 after three innings.
The Bears grabbed the lead in the fifth when Brantley Rumford ignited the offense with a leadoff triple. Following a Murphy walk, Vieitez drove in both runners with single to right field, before scoring on a Brandon Walker single to give Lenoir-Rhyne a 5-3 lead.
The Bear offense didn't slow down as the broke the game open in the sixth inning. After one runs scored on a wild pitch, Vieitez laced a double to right field that scored two before David Newcomer capped the scoring with an infield single that gave Lenoir-Rhyne a 9-3 lead after six innings.
King threatened to come back in the eighth inning when Raymond and Smith registered back-to-back singles, but Bear pitcher Austen Gunnels escaped the jam with a pair of strikeouts. The Tornado had a pair of runners again in the ninth, but the Bears turned a double play to end the game, giving Lenoir-Rhyne the 9-3 win.
Raymond got the start on the mound, giving up two runs, one earned on five hits in four innings. Gaby and Smith recorded two hits each while Trent ripped his third home run of the season to lead the Tornado offense.
King will be in action again on Friday when they host Limestone College in a key Conference Carolinas series. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and Saturday's doubleheader is slated to start at 12:00 p.m.