Piedmont hands Marietta first loss
Caldwell pitches seven innings to lead Lions to upset win
DEMOREST, Ga. -- Kevin Caldwell pitched arguably the best performance of his career in a tight pitcher's duel as No. 10 Piedmont rallied for a 4-1 win against No. 1 Marietta Friday night at Loudermilk Field.
The Pioneers' starter, senior Austin Blaski, pitched dominantly into the seventh inning before being plagued by a pair of errors. Until the home half of the seventh, Piedmont was trailing 1-0 and had only tallied one hit and had one guy in scoring position. Blaski struck out nine through seven frames, and all four runs were unearned. He didn't walk a batter until an intentional pass to senior Ethan Miers in a crucial seventh inning outburst.
Caldwell was sharp, allowing just three hits and three walks in seven innings of work. The junior picked up his fifth win of the 2012 campaign and his biggest so far as a Lion. Like Blaski, Caldwell's run that he surrendered came after the middle infield committed consecutive errors in a tight spot, scoring Marietta's fifth-inning run. He gave way to senior Ed Cook, who closed the game for his fifth save, worked his way out of a jam in the top of the eighth.
The Lions, behind Caldwells gem, stayed within striking distance, and got things going in the bottom of the seventh stanza with a leadoff single by senior Curtis Cornett. After a strikeout, sophomore Chris Lew singled through the right side as the first baseman was holding on Cornett. The base hit put runners on the corners with one away and gave Piedmont a chance to knot a game in which runs were a premium. Junior Tim Nunez laid down a safety squeeze in a clutch moment. Cornett dashed for home as Blaski fielded the bunt and flipped high to the catcher to try and get Cornett. The ball sailed to the backstop, sending Lew to third and advancing Nunez to second. More importantly, the Lions tied the game at one apiece.
Miers was then given a literal free pass to load the bases and force an out at any base. Blaski then blew past the next Lions hitter with his ninth strikeout, bringing up the ninth-place hitter in junior Tate Koons. The centerfielder stepped into a dramatic moment in a tied game in the seventh with two away and the bases full against the top team in the country. He didn't disappoint, slapping a line drive to center that cleared the bases. The centerfielder came in hard and pulled up at the last second, and was caught between hops as the ball raced past him to the outfield wall. All three runners scored as the Loudermilk faithful went wild, and Koons dove into third headfirst as PC went up 4-1.
Cook was brought in in the ensuing inning, and immediately gave up a leadoff single. A passed ball got the runner to second, who then stole third. With none out, Cook buckled down and fanned the next hitter for the first out, then got the second to tap out to the mound. A walk put runners on the corners again, and the next Marietta hitter smashed a one-hopper to Nunez at second, who fielded it cleanly and threw onto first to preserve the lead and end the inning.
The Lions nearly added an insurance run in the home half of the eighth when sophomore Josh Bailey led off with a single and advanced to third before being stranded. Cook polished off the monumental win for Piedmont with a perfect ninth inning, striking out the first and third hitter of the inning and catching a popup on the third base line for the second out.
After the final swing and miss, the Lions move to 13-3 on the year and look to repeat tomorrow with game two against the Pioneers. Senior Caleb Cochran is on the hill for the 3 p.m. start, sporting a 3-1 record with a 1.57 ERA.