Tornado Explode in Fifth, Defeat NGU for First Time
TIGERVILLE, S.C. – King College timed its first win over the North Greenville University in program history well as its heads into the homestretch of the conference season. The Tornado bats took advantage of 11 Crusader walks, earning a 12-6 win over NGU to begin their three-game set.
King (23-16, 12-10) responded to a 2-0 deficit in the fifth inning by bursting for seven runs in the top half of the inning. Seven walks in the inning directly lead six of the Tornado's seven runs in the inning. With runners on first and second, senior outfielder Bryant Walker (Knoxville, Tenn.) tallied one of his three RBI with a single to left field. North Greenville starter Drew Provence walked four of the next five batters, three while King had the bases loaded, turning a 2-1 NGU lead into a 4-2 King lead with a hit being registered.
After the Tornado turned over the lineup, the Crusaders entered Nate Richards to replace Provence (L, 5-2) on the mound. Richard turned in North Greenville's seventh walk of the inning as Hunter Smith forced his second of the frame, scoring King's fourth run on only one hit. A fielding miscue by NGU first baseman Andrew Lawrence allowed two more runs to score and give King a 7-2 lead.
Cory Rhodes (Kissimmee, Fla.) tossed seven innings while riding as much as a five-run cushion. NGU started a comeback over the next three innings, but Rhodes (W, 7-2) weathered the storm and left with a one-run lead. The Crusaders pecked away with eight hits from all areas of the lineup and closed the gap with RBI base hits from Dylan Fulk, David Frazier, and Andrew Lawrence, plus a balk call against Rhodes.
David Pritchard (Hamilton, Ohio) was key in holding the NGU bats silent in the final two innings of the game as King continued to provide offensive support. The senior left-hander retired the heart of the Crusader lineup in order in the eighth then induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the game, 12-6.
Walker continued to swing a hot stick as part of an eighth inning that featured two Tornado home runs. Hunter Smith (Bristol, Tenn./Sullivan East) led the inning off with a solo homer to give King an 8-6 edge when three batters later Walker went yard on Richards with a two-run shot to hit double-digits and increase King's lead to four.
The Tornado added two more insurance runs in the ninth, again taking advantage of NGU's lack of control on the hill. Cody Snyder and Josh Huffman led the inning off with walks and with the help of a wild pitch, passed ball, and run-scoring single by Garrett Cook (Luray, Va.) bumped their lead up to six runs heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Walker led the Tornado with two of the team's six hits on the day, recorded three RBI in the process.
The win served as the first against North Greenville in King's history after the Crusaders, also a first-year Conference Carolinas member, defeated King five times in 2011. The last time the two teams played was in the NCCAA Division I World Series, held in Mason, Ohio, on May 20 when the Crusaders beat the Tornado 11-2, ending King's World Series run.
The win helps King control its own destiny in the Conference Carolinas Tournament race as they current possess the sixth and final spot to qualify for the postseason tournament, if the season ended today. The Tornado will conclude its three-game series with North Greenville on Saturday, April 14, with a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m.