LYNCHBURG — A four-run ninth inning rally by the Motlow State Bucks put an end to the baseball season for the Cleveland State Cougars Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars came from behind in their half of the ninth to take a three-run lead, but it wasn't enough as the Bucks pulled off the miracle and took the heartbreaker and the series by a final score of 7-6.
The Cougars drew first blood in their first at-bat as Wright Hackett rattled the center field fence for a one-out double, moved over to third on a wild pitch and scored on a grounder to the shortstop by Keith Buckhault.
The Bucks tied the game in the bottom of the second as Ben Holland led off the frame with a solo homer.
The pitcher's duel between the Cougar's Jake Wright and the Buck's Matt Sharp continued until the sixth inning, when Motlow State (32-19) took their first lead of the day as Hayden Pewitt laid down a suicide squeeze bunt. Wright then riggled out of a bases loaded no-out jam to limit the damage.
The Cougars (27-23) pounced right back into the lead in their half of the seventh. Brock Johnson started things with a single and following a hit batter and a walk to load the bases with Cougars, Buckhault forced a run in the hard way by getting plunked for the RBI. Dalton Rogers then put the visitors back on top with a groundout for a 3-2 lead.
The Bucks tied the game once again in the bottom of the eighth as Luke Toms air-mailed a leadoff homer over the centerfield fence.
Rogers seemingly extended the Cougars season in the top of the ninth as the sophomore from Soddy Daisy air-mailed a clutch two-out home run over the right field fence and into the parking lot for a three-run dinger and a 6-3 Cleveland State lead.
Down to their last three-outs, the Bucks staged an amazing comeback in their half of the ninth. A sacrifice fly from Logan Conley plated the first run, and Toms knocked in a run with a two-out double. After a pair of hit batters loaded the bases, Pewitt became the hero of the day for the home team as he singled up the middle to knock in the tying and winning runs in the most dramatic fashion.
Kegan Frederick took the loss for the Cougars in relief of Wright, while Nathan Hammer picked up the win for the Bucks in relief of Sharp.
On Friday, the Bucks pounded out 13 hits and rode a strong pitching performance from Elliott Bush, who shut the Cougars down for five innings to post a win in the first game of the three-game set.
Clayton Palicki singled in a run and Hayden Pewitt doubled in another in the fourth inning as the Bucks took a 2-0 lead. An error, a free pass and a three-run dinger from Toms in the fifth stretched the Motlow lead to 6-0.
The Cougars finally mustered a little offense with a run in the sixth as Jammer Strickland doubled in a run. The visitors drew closer in the seventh as singles from Chris Caffrey and Janson Roberson started the rally while Keith Buckhault doubled in both runners and then came around to score on a single from Dalton Rogers to cut the lead to 6-4.
The Rally would end there though, as the Bucks tacked on a pair of insurance runs in their half of the seventh on an error and an RBI double from Pewitt.
Bobby Towne suffered the loss for the Cougars, tossing five innings and allowing only two earned runs while Raunel Perez and Brandon Leonard pitched in relief. Bush got the win for Motlow while Hayden Bailey tossed in relief.
The Bucks will now advance in the tournament and will play next weekend at Volunteer State.