MORRISTOWN — The Cleveland State baseball team came within an eyelash of sweeping a doubleheader from nationally 14th-ranked Walters State on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon in the land of the Senators.
The Cougars instead had to settle for a split as they took game one by a final count of 6-4 and then saw a furious last at-bat comeback fall one run short in game two, as the Senators held on for a 5-4 win for a split on the day and took two of three in the weekend series.
The Cougars (24-19, 11-13) wasted no time as they put a pair of runs on the board in their first trip to the plate. Zach Janes singled and Evan Speicher drew a free pass to start the inning and both came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Dalton Rogers and a single by Keith Buckhault for a 2-0 lead.
The Senators (37-11, 20-5) got those two runs back in their half of the first as Austin Norrell doubled in both runs to tie the game at 2-2.
The Cougars just kept right on hitting as they jumped back on top in the second frame. Chris Caffrey doubled, Janson Roberson singled and both came around to score on a double from Speicher to put the visitors on top, 4-2.
Cleveland State tacked on single runs in the third and again in the sixth as Caffrey and Rogers added an RBI each to their totals. The Senators managed to plate a single run in their half of the third and sixth as well, on an error and a sacrifice fly.
That would be all the damage the powerful Senators could muster in game one, as Cougar starting pitcher Jake Wright went the distance to pick up the win, allowing only two hits, and none after the third inning. Andrew Gist took the loss for the Senators while Campbell Scholl pitched in relief.
The Senators pushed a run across in the bottom of the first inning of game two without the benefit of a hit on a plunked batter, a walk and two sacrifices as James Fowlkes added the RBI for a 1-0 lead.
The Cougars got that run back in the top of the second as Buckhault doubled and later score on a grounder to second base from Wright Hackett to knot the game at 1-1.
The Senators put three runs on the board in their half of the fifth to take the lead as Brycen Roberts doubled in a run, Reed Hayes singled in another and Jake Farr pushed one across on a roller to first base. Norrell belted a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth to give the home team a 5-1 lead.
With a little help, the Cougars made things interesting in their last at bat. A walk and another hit batter came around to score as a Senators miscue allowed both runs to cross. A groundout by Caffrey to second base added another run to cut the lead to 5-4, but the Cougars left the tying run on base as the Senators held on for the win.
Aaron Quillen picked up the win for the Senators while Andrew Towns came on to get the last out for the save. Josh Morgan took the loss for the Cougars while Kegan Frederick pitched in relief.
Cleveland State will be at home on Tuesday against Bryan College and then this weekend with a big three-game showdown with archrival Chattanooga State.