Posted: Saturday, March 10th 2012 at 10:18pm
Piedmont splits with D-III No 1 Marietta
DEMOREST -- The Piedmont College Lions beat the top-ranked NCAA D-III team, Marietta, 4-1 on Friday but were outhit in the return match Saturday, losing 9-0 at Loudermilk Field.
Friday's game saw Lions pitcher Kevin Caldwell toss arguably the best performance of his career in a tight pitcher's duel as the No. 10 Lions rallied for a 4-1 win over Marietta, the reigning NCAA Champions Friday night at Loudermilk Field. Until the home half of the seventh, Piedmont was trailing 1-0 and had only tallied one hit and had one man in scoring position.
Caldwell was sharp, allowing just three hits and three walks in seven innings of work. The junior picked up his fifth win of the 2012 campaign and his biggest so far as a Piedmont Lion. The Lions, behind Caldwells gem, stayed within striking distance, and got things going in the bottom of the seventh stanza with a leadoff single by senior Curtis Cornett. After a strikeout, sophomore Chris Lew singled through the right side as the first baseman was holding on Cornett. The base hit put runners on the corners with one away and gave Piedmont a chance to knot a game in which runs were a premium. Junior Tim Nunez laid down a safety squeeze in a clutch moment. Cornett dashed for home as the Marietta pitcher Austin Blaski fielded the bunt and flipped high to the catcher to try and get Cornett. The ball sailed to the backstop, sending Lew to third and advancing Nunez to second. More importantly, the Lions tied the game at one apiece.
Miers was then given a literal free pass to load the bases and force an out at any base. Blaski then blew past the next Lions hitter with his ninth strikeout, bringing up the ninth-place hitter in junior Tate Koons. The centerfielder stepped into a dramatic moment in a tied game in the seventh with two away and the bases full against the top team in the country. He didn't disappoint, slapping a line drive to center that cleared the bases. The centerfielder came in hard and pulled up at the last second, and was caught between hops as the ball raced past him to the outfield wall. All three runners scored as the Loudermilk faithful went wild, and Koons dove into third headfirst as PC went up 4-1.
Cook was brought in in the ensuing inning, and immediately gave up a leadoff single. A passed ball got the runner to second, who then stole third. With none out, Cook buckled down and fanned the next hitter for the first out, then got the second to tap out to the mound. A walk put runners on the corners again, and the next Marietta hitter smashed a one-hopper to Nunez at second, who fielded it cleanly and threw onto first to preserve the lead and end the inning.
Satuday's game was more lopsided, as the No. 10 Lions were bested in a rematch and Marietta College took the 9-0 shutout. A 3-run homerun to deep left center in the top of the first inning set the tone for the No. 1 Pioneers, who put a five-spot on the board in the opening frame.
Senior Caleb Cochran, the defacto ace on the staff, came in with a 3-1 record and 1.57 ERA, but struggled with his control early on. The lefty walked three, including two in the first inning alone, which saw eight hitters come to the plate. The Piedmont offense had chances early on with runners in scoring position, but wasn't able to come through with a big hit. The Lions left eight runners on base in the first five stanzas.
Marietta added to its lead with a single run in the fifth after a leadoff walk issued by Cochran. With two away, the Pioneers slashed a double deep down the right field line, making it 6-0 in favor of the visitors. The Lions' best chance perhaps to chip away at the deficit came in the home half of the fifth. Three walks during the inning loaded the bases full of Lions, but Marietta induced a groundout to force out the runner going to second, preserving the 6-0 lead.
The Pioneers added insult to injury in the seventh and eighth, pouring on three more insurance runs to up the lead to 9-0. Piedmont gave up four hits and a walk in the top of the seventh, while surrendering a pair of runs. The Lions' pitching gave up 15 hits on the game, whereas the offense didn't record a hit after the first hitter of the third inning until the bottom of the ninth when junior Tate Koons hit a two-out double. The men actually recorded more walks than hits, coming up with five, including a hit batter as well. Piedmont will get a short break before returning to action at home again Thursday with a 7 p.m. game against No. 13 Rowan University.
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