GALLATIN - The Cleveland State baseball team fell on hard times on the road on Friday afternoon as they dropped both ends of a Region VII Conference doubleheader to Volunteer State. The Pioneers staged two dramatic last at-bat comebacks in game one to finally win in extra innings 10-9 and then handed the Cougars their fifth loss in six games as the home team took game two, 10-5.
The Cougars jumped out to a three-run advantage in their first at bat of the afternoon. The visitors had a little help as Pioneer starting pitcher, Chevis Hoove plunked the first two batters he faced, Jammer Strickland and Evan Speicher and then walked Dalton Rogers to put a Cougar on every base.
The first run then crossed on a wild pitch, Jake Wright lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to plate a run and Zach Janes followed with a single to push the Cleveland State lead to 3-0.
The lead didn't last long though, as the Pioneers quickly tied the contest in their half of the first inning. Hunter Gilbe led off the frame with a solo homer to start the rally. A pair of singles and a passed ball put runners on second and third for Hoove who took two of those runs he gave up in the top of the first, back with a two-run double to knot the score at 3-3.
The Pioneers put another three-spot on the board in the bottom of the fifth as Charlie Pal tripled in a run and Dalton Davis followed that with a two-run blast for a 6-3 advantage.
That lead didn't last very long either. The Cougars took their turn in the top of the sixth and promptly exploded for four big runs to seesaw back in front. With two outs, two walks and two more hit batsmen plated a run across as Dalton Rogers pushed the run across by drawing a free pass. Strickland singled in a run and Jake Wright singled in two more and just like that the Cougars were back on top, 7-6.
Down to their last three outs, the Pioneers found a way to tie the game as Gilbe singled, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a clutch single by Riley McCown to send the game into free baseball.
The Cougars went back on top with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth as Janson Roberson came up with the big two-out two-run double to put his team on top, 9-7.
The Pioneers just would not give up as they mounted one last rally in their half of the ninth. A double by McCown started the comeback and a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases. A fly ball to centerfield by Hoove plated two runs to once again tie the game. After the Cougars recorded the second out, the winning run scampered home on a wild pitch to put an end to game one and give the home team the win in a wild finish.
Xander Taylo pitched three plus innings in relief for the Pioneers to get the win while Brandon Leonard suffered the loss for the Cougars (12-12, 4-7). Bobby Towne started while Raunel Perez also pitched in relief.
The Cougars started game two the same as they had the first, with three runs in their first at-bat. Wright singled in a run, Rogers later scored on the back end of a double steal while the third run crossed on a groundout from Brock Johnson.
The visitors tacked on a run in the third frame as Rogers smashed a solo homer and Strickland added another run in the fourth with a single as the Cougar lead grew to 5-0.
But, as in game one, the lead dissappeared quickly as the Pioneers exploded for three runs in their half of the fourth and five more in the fifth. A sacrifice fly from Pal and a two-run dinger from Davis accounted for the three runs in the fourth while Ben Hachten, Pal, Davis and McCown all knocked in runs in the fifth to give the home team an 8-5 lead.
The Pioneers tacked on two more in the sixth to salt away the win and the sweep of the twinbill. Randy Lopez went the distance for Volunteer State to get the win while Kegan Frederick took the loss for the Cougars.