By: Jake Miller
HARTSVILLE, S.C.- Coker baseball was able to win the war of attrition that was Friday's (Mar. 18) South Atlantic Conference game with visiting Tusculum, earning a gritty 2-1 win in 12 innings.
The Cobras had to find a way to break through on Pioneers closer Devan Watts (0-2). The fireballer was in his third inning of work facing Coker nine-hole hitter AJ Strnad. Strnad in an 0-2 hole, the junior knocked a ball to left center that carried into the gap. Strnad cruised into second representing the winning run. Will Winslow stepped to the plate and was hit by a pitch, putting two ducks on the pond for Bryson Conner. A broken attempted pickoff play by the Pioneer defense allowed Strnad to steal third and Winslow to advance to second. Watts would uncork ball two to Conner that would skip to the backstop plating the winning run for the home team.
All that came after the Cobras tied the game up in the ninth inning when faced with their last strike. Thomas Lopez drew a leadoff walk after grinding out an at-bat against Tusculum starter Placido Torres. Torres was relieved in favor of Watts, who allowed Lopez to move into scoring position via wild pitch. With two outs and an 0-2 count, Ryan Wayne poked a breaking ball into center to score Lopez and knot the game at one-all.
The starters traded scoreless frames for the majority of the game after Tusculum took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Tusculum starter Torres would give the Cobra offense all it could handle, firing 8.1 innings in a quality start effort. The southpaw allowed one earned run on five hits, while walking one and punching out 12. Cobra starter Dallas Baldwin also earned a quality start, going six innings allowing one earned run on eight hits. The right-hander issued one free pass and fired seven strikeouts. From there it was left to the Cobra bullpen, which matched the combination of Torres and Watts frame for frame. Anthony Scaccia, Will Sutton and Darius Coldiron (4-1) all fired scoreless relief appearances in the marathon. Coldiron came on to relieve Sutton in the top of the 12th with two runners on and no outs. Coldiron retired his first batter via a fly ball to center. The threat still looming, Creighton Wilke chopped a ball up the middle for shortstop Bryson Conner. Conner fumbled it slightly, but composed himself to step on second and make the throw to first to end the inning.
The Cobras hit the field again tomorrow (Sat. Mar. 19) to complete the three-game set. Video and live stats will be available at www.cokercobras.com. First pitch is set for 12:00 p.m. at Tom J. New Field. Tickets for the game are $5 for adults, $3 for students and free to all Coker faculty, staff and students.
McDonald's Player of the Game- AJ Strnad