BRISTOL, Tenn. – In the final Conference Carolinas series, the King University baseball team knew they needed at least two wins this weekend to clinch the fourth seed in the upcoming Conference Carolinas Tournament. The Tornado got both of those wins on Friday, sweeping a doubleheader from Barton College behind a stellar pitching performance of Cory Rhodes.
Rhodes was masterful on the bump for the Tornado, earning the save in the first game before tossing a complete game in the nightcap to give King (20-27-1, 10-10 CC) the sweep. The Tornado got on the board early in game one as Geoff Cieslewitz scored Tyler Gaby, who doubled to lead off the inning, with a sacrifice fly, giving King the early 1-0 lead. However, Barton (14-28, 7-13 CC) plated two runs on a Calvin Hawke triple in the third to gain a 2-1 advantage.
The lead didn't last long, though, as Gaby ripped a one-out triple in the bottom of the inning before scoring on a Stephen Mullins groundout to even the score. King grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Cody Rogers ripped a single up the middle that scored J.D. Wallace who started a two-out rally with single.
The Tornado added another run to take a 4-2 lead after five before Barton cut their deficit to one with a run in the seventh. The Bulldogs then evened the score on squeeze play in the eight before Tyler Garrett ripped a single up the middle with runners on second and third. One run scored to give Barton the lead, but Garrett Cook wasn't going to let the second run score, throwing a laser home to Wallace who tagged the runner out to keep the King deficit at 5-4 going to the bottom of the eighth.
Justin Trent led off the bottom of the inning with an infield single before being sacrificed to second base by Logan Schmidt. The Bulldogs then brought in a new pitcher to face Wallace with one out. The senior crushed the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for his third home run of the season to give King the 6-5 lead.
Rhodes then entered in the bottom of the ninth and sat the Bulldogs down in order to earn his first save of the year. Reiss Stanley started on the mound for King and lasted six and one-thirds innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out three. Wallace, Gaby and Mullins all registered two hits for the King offense with Gaby and Wallace each scoring twice. Wallace also drove in two with Mullins scoring once and driving in one.
Rhodes then turned around and started game two with a bang. The senior set the tone early, retiring the side in the top of the first on three pitches. The Tornado gave Rhodes the run support he needed in the third inning when they plated four runs. Gaby sparked a two-out rally when he reached on an error and stole second. He then scored on a Mullins single before Tyler Raymond single up the middle to put runners on the corners. Hunter Smith then crushed a double to left field that plated both runners, and Cieslewitz followed with a double to score Smith, giving King the 4-0 advantage.
Rhodes' only blemish of the day came in the fourth inning when the Bulldogs plated an unearned run. The Tornado offense would get that run back in the fifth inning as the Kissimmee, Fla., native only allowed two hits over the final three innings in his complete game victory. Rhodes scattered eight hits a struck out three in the game two win.
Gaby and Mullins again paced the offense, each going 2-for-3 from the top two spots in the lineup. Gaby scored twice while Mullins drove in on and scored once.
The series concludes on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at the King Baseball Field. Saturday is also Senior Day as the Tornado will honor their seniors with a ceremony starting at 11:30 a.m.