LMU Baseball knocked out of SAC Tournament by Catawba

Railsplitters ousted from SAC tournament in 9-7 loss to Catawba

FOREST CITY, N.C. – Will Albertson delivered the game-winning RBIs in the top of the fifth with a three-run home run and top-seeded Catawba’s (37-10) bullpen survived a late surge to knock off the fourth-seeded Railsplitters (24-22) 9-7 in the South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championship on Saturday at McNair Field in Forest City, N.C.

Lincoln Memorial’s season comes to a close in the wake of its second loss of the SAC tournament after dropping a narrow 4-3 decision to Tusculum on Friday night, while Catawba, the SAC regular season champion and No. 5 ranked team in the most recent NCBWA national poll, advances to play the winner between Tusculum and Newberry on Sunday.

The Railsplitters started about as well as they could have hoped, as left-hander Grant Painter (Knoxville, Tenn.) dominated the first four frames aside from a minor hiccup. Painter sat the Indians down in 1-2-3 order in the first, third and fourth innings. In the second, Painter walked T.J. Wharton and plunked Dylan Richardson to help load the bases with no outs. He worked out of that jam with minimal damage, though, inducing a 6-4-3 double play and a groundout to allow just a single run to cross.

Lincoln Memorial broke through early against All-SAC second team starting pitcher Shaefer Shepard, using bloop singles by Eric Kalman (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Jonathan Lowe (Sidney, Ohio) to put two runners on for Ryan Burlison (Romeoville, Ill.), who snuck a three-run home run over the 25-foot wall in left field. It was the fifth home run of Burlison’s senior season and his first since going deep against Catawba back on March 15.

Following Craig Brooks’ bunt single in the top of the second, Painter retired the next eight batters he faced, a stretch that carried into the start of the fifth frame. That’s precisely the moment that Catawba’s bats were brought to life, as the Indians put their first four runners on, cutting the deficit to 3-2 with a Grayland Fowler single. Blake Houston tied it up at 3-3 with a sacrifice fly out to left, with Chance Bowden narrowly beating Lowe’s throw to the plate. After a Bryce Fowler fly out, SAC Player of the Year Albertson hammered a three-run dinger over the wall in left to make it a 6-3 Catawba lead.

The Indians tacked on three more runs in the sixth stanza to bulge the lead to 9-3, scoring two on RBI singles from Fowler and Albertson, while adding another on Malachi Hanes’ pinch-hit sacrifice fly out.

Using a number of clutch hits and a shutdown relief effort from Burlison, the Railsplitters nearly overcame that deficit.

Lincoln Memorial hacked two runs off of Catawba’s cushion in the home half of the sixth, as Wes Neiderland (Thompson Station, Tenn.) led off with a double and scored two batters later on Lowe’s RBI single. Miller plated Lowe by dropping a single back up the middle.

With the lead trimmed to 9-5, Burlison took over on the mound in the top of the seventh, and the Romeoville, Ill. native turned in a magnificent appearance, limiting the Indians to just one hit over three innings, striking out three in the process.

After going quietly in the seventh, the Railsplitters got another rally going in the eighth. Lowe singled to lead off the inning, but a strikeout and a fielder’s choice left LMU with only four remaining outs and a runner on first. Miller took care of business, though, scalding a double into the gap in right-center to score a run. Logan Augustine (Urbandale, Iowa) walked to bring Nick Morabito (Vienna, Va.) to the plate representing the tying run. Though he was unable to tie it, Morabito poked a single back up the middle to make it a 9-7 game. Clean-up hitter Kyle Floyd (Windsor, Ill.) then stepped to the plate with a chance to whittle the deficit further, but reliever Bryan Blanton struck him out to end the inning.

Burlison faced the minimum once again in the top of the ninth, but the Railsplitters grounded out three straight times against Catawba closer Ryan McClintock in the bottom of that inning to end it.

The Railsplitters outhit the high-powered Catawba offense 13-11. Miller and Lowe led Lincoln Memorial with three hits apiece in their final appearances in the Blue and Gray. Neiderland added a pair of hits, while Burlison drove in three runs.

Painter was saddled with the loss after allowing six hits and six runs over 4 2/3 innings, falling to 5-5 in his debut season with the Railsplitters.

Albertson led the Indians with his 3-for-5 effort that included four RBI and a run scored. Richardson, Bowden and Fowler added two hits apiece.

Shepard was awarded the win following seven innings of 10-hit, five-run work, while McClintock picked up his seventh save with an unblemished ninth frame.

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