GALLATIN — The seventh ranked Walters State Senators saw their promising season come to an end late Saturday night after a pair of heartbreaking defeats in the second day of the TCCAA-NJCAA Region VII Tournament at Volunteer State.
The Senators led TCCAA regular season champion and 13th ranked Columbia State 3-0 entering the seventh inning before allowing four runs in the frame and falling 4-3 after Tyler Fullerton hit the eventual game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh in the opening game of the day.
In the nightcap, needing a win to keep their season alive but also to earn a spot in the NJCAA East Central District Tournament at Georgia Perimeter with a spot in the JUCO World Series on the line, disaster struck in the form of a ninth inning collapse.
Leading 6-3 entering the ninth, Motlow State got a two-run triple from Jonathon Daily and later a two-run, walk-off home run by Luke Toms with the Bucks down to their final strike to take a 7-6 victory and advance to Sunday’s championship game against Columbia State.
With the wins, both tournament champion Columbia State (40-11) and Motlow State (40-22) both will play in the East Central District Tournament against the top two teams in Georgia for a spot in the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., beginning on May 24.
The losses ended the season for the Senators with a 43-18 record in the first season under head coach David Shelton.
In the Columbia State game, Dylan Powers and Taylor Martin had three hits apiece, while Dathan Prewett added a pair of singles, Austin Norrell and Reed Hayes both doubled and Brycen Roberts had a triple in the defeat.
The Senators held a 3-0 lead after scoring a pair of runs in the second inning and another in the fourth, but they left seven runners on base and hit into three double plays which kept the lead from expanding.
The Chargers rallied in the home half of the seventh with four runs, and Fullerton’s two-run blast was the largest blow, giving Columbia State a 4-3 lead. Relievers Andrew Barkley and Will Snider combined for two scoreless relief innings to give Scooter Hightower the win.
Andrew Gist (5-5) took the loss after allowing four earned runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings. He had worked six scoreless frames and scattered five hits before the fateful seventh.
In the nightcap, the Senators appeared poised to make the championship game and advance to the tournament in Georgia after recording 15 hits, but leaving six runners on and having several more thrown out at home or third doomed their chances of a much bigger lead late in the game.
Every starter for WSCC had a hit in the contest, with Hayes and James Fowlkes both slapping three hits, with Fowlkes delivering a home run. Norrell and Roberts had two hits apiece as both doubled, while Jake Farr added a two-bagger and Dylan Powers homered.
The Senators never trailed until the final pitch of the game, as they led 4-0 in the third before the Bucks finally scored. The lead was 5-1 in the fifth after a long ball by Fowlkes, but Motlow got two solo homers in the sixth against Aaron Quillen to cut it to 5-3.
The score remained the same when Quillen was pulled in favor of Brett Martin with two outs in the seventh, and he went into the ninth holding the lead before the rally by the Bucks to win it.
Nathan Hammer got the win in relief for Motlow by allowing just one earned run on six hits in four innings of work. Martin (9-2) took the loss after surrendering four earned runs on four hits in two innings of relief. Quillen allowed three runs – two earned – on seven hits in 6.2 innings in a no decision.
-From Staff Reports