The home team had to do it the hard way, but in the end results were all that mattered, and the Cougars came up big in crunch time in their last turn at the plate.
The Cougars (14-10) put a run on the board in each of the first two innings without the benefit of a base hit. Three walks, an error and a sacrifice fly from Brandon Rader pushed a run across in the first frame. A walk, a stolen base by Matt West and a wild throw to third plated the second run in the second inning.
Cleveland State added a run in the fourth when Cody Commons singled and moved around to third on a pair of wild pitches, then scored on a Cardinals’ double play for a 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals got on the board in the fifth after Dustin Moon doubled in a pair of runs to cut the lead to 3-2. The visitors took advantage of a Cougar miscue in the eighth to tie the game on a double and groundout. Gadsden State took its first lead of the game in the top of the ninth on an RBI double by Cory Adams.
Down to their last three outs, Trevor Burgess got the rally started by coaxing a one-out free pass. Galen Smith sizzled a single into right field to put runners on the corners. Rader continued to carry the hot bat and the former Cleveland Blue Raider singled to tie the game.
After the second out was recorded, Gray Hutchinson sent the Cougar fans home happy when he singled to left field, allowing Smith to chug home from second base with the game winner.
“I’d rather be lucky than good and that is what we were today — lucky,” said Cougars’ coach Mike Policastro. “We got up early, but we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities and left a lot of men on base. Justin pitched well, Landon and Matt came in and did well also. It was a good win and hopefully we can take that with us this weekend.”
Hunter Hammond started on the hill for the Cougars. Landon Snyder, Alex Moore and Matt Lynam pitched in relief with Lynam picking up the win. Dustin Spruiell took the loss for the Cardinals.
The Cougars will get ready for a conference road trip to Motlow State on Friday and Saturday.