The Cleveland State baseball team salvaged the third game of their weekend TCCAA Region VII Conference series with the Chattanooga State Tigers as they split a pair of games on Friday afternoon at Cougar Field.
After taking game one of the series on Thursday, the Tigers snatched game two in the first game of the doubleheader on Friday by a final score of 3-2 while the Cougars bounced back to avoid the sweep in game three by a final talley of 8-5.
The Tigers drew first blood in game one of the day as Ryan Whitt belted a solo homer leading off the second inning. Brandon Day singled in a run later in the frame to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
The Cougars scratched out a pair of runs in their half of the third to tie the game at two all. Zach Janes singled and scored the first run on a double by Dalton Rogers while Keith Buckhault drew a free pass and came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Chris Caffrey.
The Tigers pushed across what turned out to be the deciding run in the top of the fourth as Jared Wilson singled and eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Day for a 3-2 lead.
Both starting pitchers went the distance as Brennan Swindoll picked up the win for the Tigers (25-14, 16-11) while Jake Wright took the loss for Cleveland State (25-21, 12-15).
“That’s the way our conference season has gone” said Cougar coach Mike Policastro. “We had opportunities in both games that we lost and just didn't get it done. Chattanooga is a good team and they don't beat themselves, but we didn't quit and salvaged the second game today.”
The Tigers went right back to work to start game two. An error, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly accounted for a run while Whitt singled in another run for a quck 2-0 lead.
The Cougars cut the lead in half in their half of the first frame as Rogers continued his hot hitting with an RBI single. The home team took their first lead of the day in the bottom of the second as Wright Hackett drew a leadoff walk and came around to score on a double by Brock Johnson. Johnson then scored on a sacrifice fly by Cole Baxley to put Cleveland State on top, 3-2.
The lead didn't last long though, as the Tigers came right back in the top of the third. Jay Rhoten singled in a run and Jean Paul Rodriguez followed with an RBI single of his own to put the visitors back on top, 4-3.
The Cougars pounced right back on top in the bottom of the third as Buckhault singled with one out and then trotted home ahead of Rogers who found a pitch to this liking and hit it into the tennis courts beyond the right field fence for a two-run dinger and a 5-4 lead.
Cleveland State tacked on a pair of badly needed insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth as two wild pitches, a passed ball and a balk contributed greatly to the rally. Singles by Evan Speicher and Buckhault started the inning as they both moved around and eventually scored on a wild pitch and a balk to push the lead to 7-4.
Michael Goss drew the visitors a run closer with a mammoth home run over the trees behind the left field fence in the sixth, but the Cougars got that run back in their half of the frame as Janes contributed a clutch two-out single to plate Chase Shaw who had singled to open the inning for an 8-5 advantage.
Raunel Perez picked up the win for the Cougars in relief of Josh Morgan while Brandon Leonard also pitched in relief and Kegan Frederick tossed the seventh to earn the save. Austin Godwin took the loss for the Tigers while Daniel Raby started the game and Brandon Smith pitched in relief.
The Cougars will host the University of the Cumberlands junior varisty squad on Tuesday and then prepare for the Region VII Conference next weekend at a site to be determined.