Pioneers sweep Southwest Tennessee

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Chris Brooks 4:33 p.m. CDT April 15, 2014Vol State freshman Chris O’Guin – a Beech High product – hit a three-run triple to end Friday’s game. O’Guin also homered in Saturday’s finale, his first of the season.
CONNECTTWEETCOMMENTEMAILMOREVolunteer State Community College baseball coach Mike Crossland said his team has been trying to “build to the tournament” for the past few weeks.
This weekend, the Pioneers took a significant step toward doing so by sweeping a three-game series with visiting Southwest Tennessee at the Tim Garrett Baseball Complex.
VSCC (20-19 overall, 10-14 Tennessee Junior College Athletic Association) exploded for 16 hits in Friday’s eight-inning, 14-4 victory in the series opener.
They did so despite facing nine different pitchers, as the Saluqis were more than ready with a quick hook if their hurlers got in trouble.
“Coach (George) Sykes has been notorious for doing that,” Crossland said. “We’ve played them before, where they’ve used a different pitcher every inning. It takes focus, no question, and if they’re trying to slow down your offense, it doesn’t matter if they’re right- or left-handed. What matters is that you find the baseball and attack it.
The Pioneers greeted Southwest starter Matt Mills by striking for four runs in two innings. Mills faced 10 VSCC hitters, while none of the next eight Saluqi tossers saw more than five batters in any stint on the mound. Mills faced two batters in the third inning before being relived by Zack Buzzard, who pitched to just two VSCC hitters before leaving the game in favor of Chad Collins.
“We just had to stay focused with every new pitcher coming into the game,” said VSCC shortstop Hunter Gilbert, who went 4-for-5 in Friday’s game with three RBIs. “We just had a good approach all game long.
Southwest got out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and held it until the second when Nick Holt’s double plated Dalton Davis to tie the game. Gilbert followed it by singling in Holt and giving the Pioneers a 2-1 lead.
“I think it was to our guys’ advantage,” said Gilbert of Southwest’s rotation of pitchers. “A pitcher has to stay in the groove when he’s going through the game.
Southwest briefly tied it in the third before VSCC put up three runs in the bottom half of that frame, doing so when Chevis Hoover was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring Austin Matthews. Davis’ sacrifice fly scored Riley McCown and Charlie Pal came home on Gilbert’s single to right field for a 5-2 lead.
“I saw the ball well,” Gilbert said. “I hope it keeps going through the rest of the season. Hopefully, we’ll keep the bats swinging well through a postseason run.
A new Saluqi pitcher – Matt McKinstry – faced the Pioneers in the fourth and retired the side in order, but after failing to get the first two batters out in the fifth, was replaced by Jacob Johnson. Johnson got two outs in the fifth and Justin Skinner recorded the final out in that inning after allowing two inherited runners to score. Blake Witt, Janathan Williams and Corbin Carter combined to pitch the game’s final two innings.
While the Pioneer bats stayed hot, Davis (2-0) kept the Saluqis relatively cool at the plate, holding them to two runs in six innings. Evan Allison pitched the final two innings in relief, giving up a two-run home run to Dimitri Villanueva in the eighth inning.
“We had two walks all day long,” Crossland said of his pitchers. “Which for us, considering where we’ve been in the past, is unbelievable.
But the Pioneers had added four runs in the fifth to secure a big lead, as Holt’s sacrifice fly to shallow right-center field allowed Pal to race home from third base. Gilbert then added his third RBI single to score Hoover before Donte Albert joined the party with his run-scoring double to left field. McCown’s single allowed Gilbert to score for a 9-2 lead.
“We’re just trying to continually get better, and we feel like we’re doing that,” Crossland said. “We’ve made progress the last four weeks. All I care about is showing progress where we can get this thing on the right track and have a postseason run ready to roll, and I think we’re doing that.
Beech High product Chris O’Guin had had a tough-luck day at the plate by the time he came up with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, having gone 0-for-4 with multiple hard-hit balls turning into outs.
But his patience was rewarded as Carter fed him a fastball over the outer half of the plate, and the lefty slashed it down the third-base line for a bases-clearing double, scoring Gilbert, Holt and Davis to invoke the run-rule and end the contest minutes before a heavy downpour engulfed the playing surface.
“I was barreling the ball pretty good (Friday),” O’Guin said. “I had been struggling against lefties all season, and to get up there and hit a double off a lefty felt pretty good.
For the Buccaneer alum, being able to play college ball in his backyard has been a big boost for him.
“I love it,” O’Guin said. “Being right here in my hometown, there’s new faces, but we’re all brothers and I get to keep growing up in my hometown. It hasn’t really changed.
O’Guin – who started the game at first base – said competing past high school has turned out to be a major undertaking.
“This game’s a lot faster, and a lot more goes into it,” O’Guin said. “It’s a job. We have three or four-hour practices every day, but it pays off in the end.
>>The Pioneer bats showed up early in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, as Vol State scored all five runs in the first three innings of a 5-2 victory.
Pal’s two-run homer – his third of the year – got VSCC off and running in the first inning. He drove in McCown with his blast, and McCown picked up two RBIs in the second inning by doubling in Matthews and Albert for a 4-0 lead.
Gilbert’s run-scoring single plated Holt in the third to cap the Pioneer scoring.
It was enough for Hoover to cruise to a complete-game victory, as he pitched all seven innings, striking out seven Saluqis and allowing five hits for his sixth win of the season.
Justin Kemp took the complete-game loss for Southwest, allowing six hits and walking three despite striking out seven Pioneers.
The Pioneers were guilty of three errors in the second game of the series, while Southwest was charged with two errors of their own.
McCown and Pal each went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Holt had a triple and Gilbert had the Pioneers’ other hit in the contest.
>>The Pioneers picked up where they left off in the series finale, scoring all of their runs in the first four innings in a 9-3 victory.
O’Guin hit his first home run of the season in the finale, a two-run shot in the fourth to score Gilbert – who tripled in Holt one batter earlier.
O’Guin drove in Davis on a ground ball in the first inning and finished with three RBIs in the contest.
Hoover had an RBI single and Davis followed with a 2-run double as the Pioneers scored four runs in the opening frame off of McKinstry, who failed to record an out against five batters after starting the contest.
Davis added to the lead in the second, as his double scored Pal for a 5-0 lead. Albert’s double in the third scored O’Guin to give VSCC a 6-0 lead.
That lead was plenty for the Pioneer pitchers, led by starter Randy Lopez, who improved to 4-5 after pitching five innings and allowing one run on two hits, while striking out five hitters. Evan Jones, Kida De La Cruz and Austyn Dyer combined to pitch the final two innings in relief.
After a trip to Mt. Carmel, Ill., to face Wabash Valley on Tuesday, the Pioneers play their final conference series of the regular season at Jackson State on Thursday and Friday.
Matt Mills, Zack Buzzard (3), Chad Collins (3), Matt McKinstry (4), Jacob Johnson (5), Justin Skinner (5), Blake Witt (6), Janathan Williams (7), Corbin Carter (8) and Josh Cedeno; Dalton Davis, Evan Allison (7) and Austin Matthews. W – Davis. L – Mills. HR: Southwest – Dimitri Villanueva.
Justin Kemp and Josh Cedeno; Chevis Hoover and Austin Matthews. W – Hoover (6-3). L – Kemp. HR: Vol State – Charlie Pal (3).
Matt McKinstry, Zack Buzzard (1), Justin Skinner (3), Blake Witt (4), Seth McLemore (4), Corbin Carter (6) and Josh Cedeno; Randy Lopez, Evan Jones (6), Kida De La Cruz (6), Austyn Dyer (7) and Gunner Osborne. W – Lopez (4-5). L – McKinstry. HR: Southwest – Michael Halley; VSCC – Chris O’Guin (1).
April 18, 2014, 2:42 p.m.
April 15, 2014, 8:27 a.m.
April 17, 2014, 6:12 p.m.
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