FOREST CITY, N.C. – Unable to hang on to its eighth-inning lead, sixth-seeded Anderson University baseball fell victim to a late-inning rally produced by fifth-seeded Tusculum, as the Pioneers eliminated the Trojans from the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament with an 8-6 extra-inning win in a consolation bracket matchup Friday afternoon at McNair Field.
With the setback, AU closes the 2014 season with a 19-32 overall record after earning the program’s first bid into the SAC Tournament. The Pioneers, which improve to 27-20 for the year, move on in the consolation bracket as they await the loser of the second-seeded Wingate and third-seeded Lincoln Memorial contest scheduled for late Friday evening.
Despite Anderson out-hitting Tusculum 13-11 for the game, the Pioneers took advantage of six costly defensive miscues by the Trojan defense, scoring just four earned runs for the game. The six errors in a season-high and the most since an 8-7 win over Newberry on March 30, 2013.
The Anderson offense was paced by designated hitter LJ Newman and shortstop Brett Cash, as the tandem combined for six of AU’s 13 hits. For Newman, the sophomore matched a season-high two doubles for the game, highlighted by an RBI two-bagger in the fourth inning to put the Trojans ahead, 2-1. Later, Newman crossed the plate in the sixth inning en route to a three-run frame.
Cash, who went 3-for-4 against Catawba on Thursday, matched his three-hit total with a 3-for-5 performance on the afternoon. Cash headlined his day with an RBI double in the fifth inning, which plated sophomore Steven Cooper from second base. For the tournament, Cash finished 6-for-9 (.667) with two doubles, a pair of RBI and a run scored.
Cooper also pounded out a multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored. Despite leading the conference in hits after the regular season wrapped up, Cooper’s multi-hit game was just his second in his last seven contests after leading the team with 20 multi-hit contests prior to the span. The All-SAC First Team selection closes the 2014 campaign with a .347 average and a team-high 70 hits for the year.
Sophomore second baseman Kyle Bailey added two hits while scoring a run, and senior center fielder Josh Hickman joined Cash and Newman with a two-RBI double in the sixth inning for his only hit of the contest.
Senior left fielder Nathan Galliford tallied a 10th-inning single for his lone hit of the game, but added to his league-leading RBI total of 50 with two RBI for the game. Galliford became the first player in the league with 50 RBI this season, while closing the year tied for the program record in home runs with 15.
On the hill, senior right-hander Thomas Goodman tossed seven complete innings and struck out four Tusculum hitters, while giving up two earned runs. Goodman walked four batters, but left the game with the lead at 6-5. Despite the slim advantage, the Tusculum offense got to AU’s relievers, claiming five hits for three runs in the final three innings to clinch the tournament victory.
Tusculum’s Heath Comerford and Trey Drewery, who are slotted No. 3 and No. 4 in the Pioneer lineup, combined for four hits, headlined by Comberford’s two-RBI double in the 10th, bringing home the eventual winning runs. The double was TC’s only extra-base hit of the contest.
Defensively, Tusculum’s bullpen solidified the victory as Billy Sivyer tossed four shutout innings with four strikeouts, while TJ Miller entered in the game’s only extra frame and struck out two Trojans en route to his second save of the year. Starter Christian Raasch went five complete innings and allowed eight hits with five earned runs.
Tusculum, which claimed its third win over Anderson this season, looks to advance through the consolation round as it snapped a five-game losing streak with the win.