by Doug Page
BRISTOL, TENN. – The Barton College Bulldogs took a brief 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh inning as junior Gatlin Pate connected on a home run, but the King University Tornado delivered a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to capture a 7-5 victory on Saturday in Conference Carolinas baseball action.
The Bulldogs (7-10, 1-2) held the Tornado scoreless through the middle innings after seeing King plate four runs through the first three innings. The Tornado (9-4, 2-1) clubbed a pair of home runs in the game and tallied several extra-base hits on the day.
Freshman center fielder Hunter Little tallied a two-hit day at the plate for the Bulldogs, finishing 2-for-5 with a double. Seven other Barton batters recorded a hit in the game as Pate went 1-for-5 with a run scored, while junior Troy Maslowski went 1-for-2 at the plate with two runs scored. Sophomore Noah Almond and freshman Tate Proctor each plated a run for BC.
Tony Valdes recorded a three-hit day for the Tornado, going 3-for-4 with one run batted in and two runs scored. Valdes hit his second home run of the season in the bottom of the first inning to get the scoring started for King. Tyler Bailey had a 2-for-3 day for the Tornado to go along with one RBI and one run scored. Castaneda and King tallied one RBI apiece, while Barbato's two-run homer was his lone hit of the day for the Tornado.
Maslowski got the start on the mound for BC in the series-finale and would work through two innings. After King jumped ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, the Bulldogs responded as Proctor singled through the left side to plate Maslowski from second.
The Tornado started the bottom the second inning with consecutive hits from King and Barbour. A hit batter would load the bases for King and lead to Bailey lacing a single through the right side to make it 2-1. King would up its lead to 3-1 on a sacrifice fly by Castaneda.
Junior Ryan Pifer took over on the mound for Barton in the bottom of the third inning and would yield a run on a pair of hits by the Tornado. Freshman Austin Lee followed by tossing a scoreless fourth inning for BC and keeping the King offense at bay.
The Barton bullpen helped to keep the score at 4-1 through the middle innings as freshman Clay Walters and junior Chase Long navigated through the fifth and sixth innings for the Bulldogs. Long tossed 1.1 scoreless innings of relief without allowing a hit against the Tornado.
Barton quickly loaded the bases in the top of the sixth inning as the first three batters all reached base for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Chase Riker and Maslowski would be hit by pitches while freshman Colby Warren singled through the right side. Riker trimmed the deficit to 4-2 as he scored on a passed ball and would be followed by a single up the middle from Almond. Maslowski scored on the play and Warren followed right behind after a fielding error on the play by the center fielder to knot the score 4-4.
Both teams would score in the seventh inning as Pate started the frame by hitting a home run to left field to make it 5-4. King rallied for a run off three hits in the bottom of the frame against sophomore reliever Landry Moore. The Tornado knotted the score once again as a runner scored from third while the Bulldogs turned a 6-4-3 double play.
Moore navigated through a clean bottom of the eighth inning and gave the BC offense a chance to try and take a late lead in the contest. Little started the ninth inning by delivering a double to right center and would advance to third off a deep fly ball from Pate. With two outs and first base open the Tornado would elect to intentionally walk Maslowski and send Warren to the plate. The Tornado got out of the inning as Warren sent a fly ball to center for the third out.
Warren looked to keep things knotted on the scoreboard for Barton in the bottom of the ninth. He would issue a walk to the lead-off batter in the frame and put the potential winning run on base. Barbato would send the King fans home happy as he drove an offering from Warren over the left field fence to give the Tornado a 7-5 victory.
Warren (0-1) suffered his first loss of the season on the mound for BC as seven different pitchers appeared in the game for the Bulldogs. Michael (1-0) earned the win for King after tossing a scoreless eighth and ninth inning.
The Bulldogs return home on Feb. 27 to host Chowan University for a single nine inning game beginning at 2 p.m. at Nixon Field.