Chattanooga State's baseball season came to a disappointing end Sunday, but the young Tigers were scrapping till the end.
After visiting Volunteer State scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning for a 7-5 lead in the deciding game of their TCCAA/NJCAA Region VII tournament opening-round series, Chattanooga State got two runners on base with one out but couldn't get them home.
The victory sent the seventh-seeded Pioneers (24-23) home as participants instead of spectators in the final-five event this coming weekend at their complex in Gallatin. Chattanooga State, which had a roster comprised almost entirely of newcomers this season, was seeded fourth and wound up 26-17.
Chattanooga State, which had swept the Pioneers 4-3, 2-0 and 6-3 in a home series in late March, made it 4-0 against them with Friday's back-and-forth 10-8 win before falling 4-3 Saturday.
Then came Sunday, when balls barely out of fielders' reach made the difference.
The Tigers scored two runs with two outs in the second inning, fell behind 3-2 in the fifth, got even in the sixth and overcame a one-run deficit with a two-run eighth. They managed an important run in the sixth even after wasting a leadoff Jean Paul Rodriguez double with a bad bunt attempt and a baserunning mistake, as singles through the infield by Jared Wilson and Tyler Hendley got Brandon Day home with the tying run.
Vol State regained its one-run lead when Chevis Hoover homered with two outs in the top of the seventh, and even on that hit Wilson got his glove on the ball over the fence.
In the bottom of the eighth, Rodriguez again got to second as the first batter, this time on a wild throw by the shortstop, and Shelden Brogden dropped a beauty of a bunt for a hit. With Wilson up and runners on third and second, a passed ball got pinch-runner Tre Lawrence home, and Hendley greeted relief pitcher Dalton Davis -- previously the first baseman -- with another clutch RBI single.
But the two runs could have been more, as Day blooped a hit down the right-field line, loading the bases with one out, but Davis got the first two batters in the Tigers' lineup on a pop-up and a strikeout.
The Tigers never got Pioneers leadoff man Riley McCown out. He was 3-for-4 and reached base also on a hit-by-pitch and an error, and he singled off Austin Godwin to open the ninth. Sidearmer Andy Clay then moved from third base to pitch, and after a McCown steal, he got Hunter Gilbert and Charlie Pal before Davis punched a hit just past diving second baseman Day to even the score.
Hoover and Nick Holt followed with RBI hits, and big Kida De La Cruz survived a Michael Goss single and a one-out Brogden walk for the save.
Hendley had three hits for Chattanooga State, and starting pitcher Brennan Swindoll pitched a solid seven innings except for the four-hit fifth. Counterpart Randy Lopez pitched into the eighth for Vol State, and Davis got the win in addition to matching Hoover with three RBIs.
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.