GALLATIN — The long ride home from Volunteer State Saturday night was a little more pleasant for the Cleveland State baseball team and especially head coach Mike Policastro after the Cougars managed to salvage the third game of a three-game Region VII Conference weekend series with the Pioneers.
After dropping both ends of a twin bill Friday, the Cougars got up off the mat and took game three by a final score of 8-5. The visitors banged out 11 hits and held off a late rally by the Pioneers while Josh Morgan tossed a gem on the mound as the Cougars held on to win the game.
Cleveland State jumped on top with a three-run uprising in the top of the second inning. A pair of walks came back to haunt the Pioneers when Cole Baxley plated a run with a sacrifice fly to left field. Janson Roberson doubled in another and Jammer Strickland singled one home for a 3-0 lead.
The Cougars tacked on a run an inning later after Zach Janes knocked in a run with a single. The visitors added a run in the seventh on a solo homer from Evan Speicher, and three big insurance runs in the eighth. Two hits and a free pass put Cougars on every base for Wright Hackett who cleared the bases with a ringing double to extend the lead to 8-1.
The home team got their first run in the sixth when Adam Brown coaxed a walk with the bases full of Pioneers. In its last at bat in the ninth, Volunteer State made things interesting when Charlie Pal dialed long distance for a grand slam homer to cut the lead to three runs. But, the rally ended there with the Cougars finally recording the last out to hold on for the win.
Morgan (4-2) picked up the win for the Cougars (13-12, 5-7) allowing only four hits and one run in his six innings of work while Jake Wright tossed the final three frames in relief. Kida De La Cruz took the loss for the Pioneers while Austin Dyer and Evan Jones pitched in relief.
The Cougars will host Piedmont College Tuesday then jump back into conference play this weekend when Columbia State comes to town.