NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a walkoff blast from senior catcher Taylor Stewart that hit the batting cage shed behind the left field wall, the Lipscomb baseball team rallied to down Atlantic Sun Conference foe USC Upstate 6-4 on Saturday afternoon at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.
“Anytime you win a conference game, I think it’s big,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “For us to come back after dropping the first one at home and getting this game giving us a chance to win the series at home tomorrow is huge. I’m proud of our guys.”
After falling behind 1-0 in the third, the Bisons (11-21, 3-5 A-Sun) answered back with a three-run fifth to take a 3-1 advantage over the Spartans (18-12, 5-6 A-Sun). A leadoff walk by senior third baseman Gray Hutchinson got the frame started before the veteran scored on a double to left field by junior right fielder Drew Adams. Senior first baseman Aaron Sandoval then singled to centerfield allowing Adams to score from second.
With the throw to the plate trying to nab Adams, Sandoval headed safely to second base and scored a batter later when sophomore designated hitter Tyson Ashcraft duplicated Sandoval’s feat with a single to centerfield to make it a 3-1 cushion for the Bisons.
That lead would be short lived however, as the Spartans answered back with a three-run top of the sixth to retake the lead behind a home run to right field by Tyler Lesch that splashed into the water.
The Bisons would answer back in the bottom of the eighth when junior left fielder Chad Shannon would deliver a two-out single that scored senior centerfielder Zach Lowery from second to send the game to the ninth tied 4-4.
In the ninth, sophomore pinch hitter Griffin Moore opened the frame by reaching on an error putting the go-ahead run on base. A sacrifice bunt by Adams followed to move pinch runner Joey Cecere into scoring position setting the table for Stewart.
After a long foul ball down the left field line on a 2-0 change-up, Stewart turned on an another change-up and drove it high and deep for the key win for the Bisons.
“After swinging at the first pitch in my first three at bats, I knew that I was probably going to get a change-up or something off speed,” said Stewart. “He threw it and I missed it barely and for some reason he threw it again and I got a piece of it. It feels good to get a win.”
Ashcraft would pick up the win on the hill for Lipscomb working a perfect ninth inning. He followed reliever J. Hwang, who worked the seventh and eighth innings without allowing a run and keeping the Spartans in check.
“J. really held us in the game when were down 4-3 then Tyson did a great job again giving us a scoreless ninth,” said Forehand.
Redshirt sophomore Hunter Brothers started the game on the hill for Lipscomb tossing the first six innings. The righty allowed four runs, five hits and six walks while notching four strikeouts.
Giving up Stewart’s home run, Ben Augestein took the loss for USC Upstate working two thirds of an inning.
The rubber game of the three-game series is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Dugan Field.