MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — The opening game of Wednesday's home baseball doubleheader didn't quite go how second-ranked Walters State planned it, but a bounce back effort in the nightcap allowed the Senators to escape with a split against visiting Spartanburg Methodist at Ken Campbell Field.
The Senators led into the sixth inning of the opener before a home run by the Pioneers proved to be the difference in a 2-1 victory for the visitors. The nightcap was a different story, as WSCC jumped on top again early and led by seven runs after the third inning in cruising to a 7-2 victory to secure the second split of the year with Spartanburg Methodist.
With the split, Walters State's 11-game winning streak came to a close, as the Senators are now 37-6 on the year and 12-2 at home, where they have outscored their opponents 112-31. By holding the Pioneers to a pair of runs in each game, WSCC has now allowed four or fewer runs in 36 of its 43 games on the campaign.
The split leaves the Pioneers at 23-15, as they are now 9-8 in true road games and 9-10 away from home this season. They have lost seven of the last nine meetings with the Senators.
Zebby Matthews drew the start on the mound in the opening game and worked a perfect first inning before getting the lead handed to him by his teammates in the home half of the frame. Jerry Hammons singled before Bryce Hodge was hit by a pitch, and Brayden Combs followed with an RBI double off the top of the left field wall to make it 1-0.
Matthews surrendered a two-out double in the second inning and a walk and an error allowed two men to reach in the third, but nothing came of it for the Pioneers in either frame. After three consecutive grounders in the fourth for another perfect inning, Matthews struck out the first two batters in the fifth before allowing another double to put a runner in scoring position, but Hodge came up with a diving stop at first and flipped to Matthews for the third out to end the threat.
Spartanburg Methodist pitcher Cooper Guest recorded eight straight outs from the second through fifth innings before a one-out single by Drew Haynie in the fifth broke the hitless streak for the Senators. Hammons then reached on an error, putting a pair of runners on with one out, but Guest got out of the jam by getting Hodge to roll into a double play and leave the score 1-0 after five innings.
The Pioneers finally got to Matthews in the top of the sixth, as Joey Tepper led off the frame with a double and scored when Donald Hansis hammered a two-run homer to right-center to put the visitors on top 2-1.
Guest worked a perfect sixth inning against the middle of the WSCC lineup, and Matthews struck out the first two batters before Mason Streater made a diving catch in left for the third out of the seventh.
Bradwin Salmond moved from the outfield to the mound to begin the bottom of the seventh, and JL Bland led off with a single to center, moved to second on a balk and then to third on a one-out grounder from Xavier Arnette, putting the tying run 90 feet from the plate with two outs. Salmond then got Haynie to fly out to end the game.
Guest improved to 2-1 on the year after allowing a run on four hits in six innings, while Salmond notched his first save after giving up a hit in the scoreless seventh frame.
Matthews (4-2) took the loss after going the distance and allowing two earned runs on four hits while striking out seven batters and waling one.
The Senators jumped on top in the first inning again in the nightcap after starting pitcher Andrew Lindsey allowed two base runners with no outs in the top half of the frame but got a double play ball and a strikeout to get out of a jam. WSCC then had Hammons on second after being hit by a pitch and moving to second on a wild pitch, and Hodge followed with an RBI double to send the runner to the plate. Combs drove in Hodge with an RBI single to make it a 2-0 lead.
WSCC added to the lead in the second, as Silas Butler walked, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly from Michael Robinson. Hodge later ripped a solo home run just inside the left field foul pole for his 10th round tripper of the year and a 4-0 lead after two frames.
The margin increased again in the third, as Seth Gardner reached on an error and Max Riemer walked before Robinson hit a line-drive three-run homer over the left field wall to make it a 7-0 advantage on his third long ball of the season.
Lindsey was tough on the Spartanburg lineup following the first inning, allowing a three singles while fanning nine over the next five innings before the Pioneers scored a pair of runs in the seventh inning off reliever Jack Collins.
Lindsey (3-0) worked six scoreless frames, allowing four hits and striking out 10 while walking just one batter. Collins was touched for two earned runs on three hits in his inning of work.
Robinson drove in four runs in the win, while Hodge added two RBIs and Combs plated a run.
Alex Nash (0-2) took the loss after going just 1 2/3 innings and allowing four earned runs on four hits. Four relievers combined to allow three runs on three hits in the final 4 1/3 innings.
The Senators will play a three-game home Tennessee Community College Athletic Association series this weekend against Dyersburg State at Ken Campbell Field. The series is set to begin Friday at 3 p.m. with a single nine-inning game before concluding with a doubleheader on Saturday at noon. Prior to the opening game on Saturday, there will be a ceremony to rename the Walters State bullpen area as the Joey Seaver Bullpen, named in honor of former WSCC player and pitching coach Joey Seaver, who passed away unexpectedly in December. The ceremony is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. on Saturday.