Overcast skies and a very soggy outfield greeted the Cleveland State baseball team on Saturday morning as they welcomed the Walters State Senators to Cougar Field for an early season non-conference noon doubleheader.
The 12th ranked (preseason poll) Senators blew open a close affair in game one with a five run outburst in the fifth to secure the win, 8-3. The Cougars (8-4) then earned a split of the twinbill in game two as Thomas Huddleston turned in an outstanding pitching performance for the home team as they scratched out a 4-0 win.
After taking a 2-0 lead on a pair of hits, a walk, a hit batsman and a wild pitch, the Senators gave one of those runs back in the bottom of the first on a double, a walk and a wild pitch to cut the lead to 2-1.
A pair of walks put the Senators in business in the fifth frame as former Polk County and University of Tennessee player Jared Allen doubled home a run, Dustin Woody pushed another across with a sacrifice fly while a pair of Cougar miscues and two RBI singles finished the inning to give the visitors a commanding 8-1 advantage.
Three bottom of the seventh walks accounted for the final two Cougar runs as Colby Harmon and DeAndre Allen each knocked in a run with a groudout.
Taylor Patterson tossed six strong innings to pick up the win for the Senators while Brandon Zajac, who also played for Tennessee after graduating from Walker Valley, took the loss for the Cougars.
The Cougars jumped on top to start game two with a run in the bottom of the first, Allen doubled to lead off the inning and came around to score on a grounder to the shortstop by Chase Edwards for a 1-0 lead.
Cleveland State tacked on two more in the third as once again Allen started the rally with a single and eventually came all the way around to score on a wild pitch. Edwards then singled, stole second and scampered home on a two-out single up the middle by former Polk County standout Michael Hargrove to push the lead to 3-0.
The Cougars added an insurance run in their half of the sixth as Keith Buckhault doubled and later scored on a single by Dalton Rogers to push the final talley to 4-0.
"Walters is a really good team and I told the guys that I was proud of the way we battled back and won game two after they beat us up in game one," explained Cougar coach Mike Policastro. "Thomas gave us a big lift in game two. He made some pitches when he had to and got in a groove and kept them off balance. We hurt ourselves with a couple of errors and some walks in the first game. The weather was a factor, it was really wet in the outfield."
That would be more than enough run support for Huddleston as he got the win for the Cougars tossing a shutout at the powerful Senators and scattering seven hits along the way. Andre Wilson retired the final three Senators in the seventh to slam the door and wrap up the win. Tyler Brosius suffered the loss for Walters State.
The Cougars will travel to Gordon College on Tuesday and then open Conference play on Friday and Saturday as Chattanooga State comes to town for a three-game set.