BURLINGTON, N.C. — Down 7-1 in the middle of the fifth inning against Southeastern Community College, the situation looked bleak for the Catawba Valley Community College baseball team and its 2018 season.
Despite that early deficit, the Red Hawks (40-15) rallied behind the bats of David Graves, Cody Payne and Tyler Campbell for an 9-7 victory against the Rams in the consolation bracket of the Region X/Southeast District tournament at Burlington Athletic Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Things looked bright for Catawba Valley early in Saturday's game as the Red Hawks took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on a single by center fielder Cory Watt.
However, the Rams would answer with two runs in the third inning, three in the fourth and two in the fifth inning — all with two outs — to gain its six-run advantage.
David Stowers led the charge for Southeastern (17-27-1), driving in two runs on a double and a triple.
With their backs up against the wall, the Red Hawks loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth inning on a single from Garrison Burress, a walk by Graham Mitchell and a single by Campbell to set up David Graves' two-run double to right field, which cut the Rams' lead to 7-3.
After Southeastern starter J.J. Oxendine was relieved by Arthur Hayes, the Red Hawks would re-load the bases in the fourth inning when pinch hitter Trent McKay was hit by a pitch.
Two batters later, Payne singled to right field, bringing home Graves and Campbell to make it a 7-5 ball game.
CVCC completed the comeback with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jimmy Marcelli started the rally when he reached base on a single, stole second base and scored on an Rams error.
Campbell's solo blast to left field — his fifth home run of the season — tied the game at 7-7, and after McKay walked and catcher Brett Macchia singled, Payne would bring home the go-ahead run on a fielder's choice.
Macchia added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth on a ground out that scored Rod Munoz, who pinch ran for Graves, from third base.
Catawba Valley starting pitcher Harry Hatcher went five innings, giving up nine hits, seven runs (five earned), no walks and struck out three batters.
After Hatcher exited in the sixth inning, the trio of Thomas Walden, Greg Collins and Nic Messina closed the door on any potential Southeastern comeback.
The Red Hawk three pitchers combined to give up just three hits, no walks, no runs and struck out three batters (all by Collins) in four innings to preserve CVCC's 40th victory and eliminate Southeastern from tournament play in the process.
Walden earned his fifth win of the season on the mound, and Messina earned his third save of the spring.
Catawba Valley's road to a potential third World Series appearance continues on Sunday with a 2 p.m. contest against No. 3 Pasco-Hernando State College (Fla.), which lost 8-7 to No. 2 seed Patrick Henry on Saturday night.
The winner of the CVCC/Pasco game will play again on Monday at 2 p.m., while the loser will be eliminated.
Below is an updated look at the Region X/Southeast District tournament schedule:
2018 Region X/Southeast District tournament schedule
Friday, May 11
G1: No. 3 Pasco-Hernando (Fla.) 8, No. 6 Wake Tech 7 (10 innings)
G2: No. 2 Patrick Henry 15, No. 7 Bryant & Stratton 4
G3: No. 5 Brunswick 11, No. 4 Catawba Valley 3
G4: No. 1 Pitt vs. No. 8 Southeastern, 7 p.m., ppd. 10 a.m. Saturday
Saturday, May 12
G4: No. 1 Pitt 11, No. 8 Southeastern 1 (five innings)
G5: No. 7 Bryant & Stratton (Va.) 11, No. 6 Wake Tech 8
G6: No. 4 Catawba Valley 9, No. 8 Southeastern 7
G7: No. 2 Patrick Henry (Va.) 8, No. 3 Pasco-Hernando (Fla.) 7
Sunday, May 13
G8: No. 1 Pitt vs. No. 5 Brunswick, 10 a.m.
G9: No. 4 Catawba Valley vs. No. 3 Pasco-Hernando (Fla.), 1 p.m.
G10: No. 7 Bryant & Stratton (Va.) vs. Loser G8, 4 p.m.
G11: No. 2 Patrick Henry (Va.) vs. Winner G8, 7 p.m.
Monday, May 14
G12: Winner G9 vs. Winner G10, 2 p.m.
G13: Loser G11 vs. Winner G12, 5 p.m. (or at least 45 minutes after G12)
Tuesday, May 15
G14: championship: Winner G11 vs. Winner G13, 11 a.m.
G15 (if necessary): If winner of G11 loses G14, 45 minutes following end of G14