Vol State (14-7) (2-4) will travel to Morristown, TN this weekend to take on #2 Walters State Senators (26-4) (6-0). The most recent rankings from the NJCAA has the Senators ranked number 2 in the country. The Neers will take their first road trip since they opened the season on the road back on February 10th. The weekend series is a big one for the Pioneers to prove they can not only play with but get some wins against the upper echelon teams in the TCCAA.
This past weekend Vol State blew an opportunity to do just that as Dyersburg State was able to come away from Gallatin with a sweep of the Neers. If you take away a throwing error on a bunted ball into right field that led to 3 unearned runs on Friday's game 1 the score may still be 0-0 today. Hall was dominate on the mound once again, going six very strong innings giving up 0 earned runs, walking 3 and striking out 10. Hall was able to lower his ERA on the year to a miniscule 0.65. However, he picked up his first loss as his counterpart on the mound for the Eagles, Ronnie Broyles, was magnificent. Broyles, who received player of the conference honors last week, went all 7 innings and dominated his way to his 4th win on the year by striking out 11 Pioneers and only giving up 1 walk and 2 hits. "We knew coming into Friday, when we were forced to play the two 7 inning games on Friday rather than the scheduled 9, that it was going to come down to who could limit their mistakes the most defensively and who could battle to win an inning or two, especially in game 1. You probably have two of the top three or four guys in the conference battling on the mound, so you know going in that the chances of a shootout are highly unlikely. And you can tell by the result, we lost focus in 1 inning and couldn't put together enough good at bats to make up for our defensive lapse in that 2nd inning," said Coach Hunt. The Neers dropped game 1 to Dyersburg 3-0. Vol State hit a road bump in the 2nd inning of game 2 Friday as well. Dyersburg was able to put together 5 runs in the top half of the 2nd inning; however, the Pioneers did rally late adding 4 runs in the bottom half of the 4th inning highlighted by a 3 run homerun from freshman Jake Lyle. That is all the Neers could muster though and lost 6-4. Game 3 looked to be headed towards a pitcher's duel. Sophomore Ben Wiley was cruising thru 2.1 innings until a few hits dropped in followed by a fastball that was turned around for a 3 run homerun and the Eagles led 4-0 after 3. Wiley settled down and gave the Pioneers a chance to come back but they stranded the bases loaded in the 3rd inning after only scoring 1, and again only scoring 1 run in the 8th while stranding the bases loaded. Dyersburg took the sweep and the Pioneers were left with that empty feeling that being on the wrong end of a conference sweep leads to.
Fortunately, Vol State got right back at it with a 3 game set vs Joliet Junior College that turned into only 2 games because of the arctic temperatures we have recently seen in mid-March. The Pioneers fell behind early in game 1 Monday heading into the bottom half of the 8th inning down 3-2. Lyle led off the 8th with a base hit and freshman Richard Constantine followed with a 2 run homerun to give the Neers the lead 4-3 heading to the 9th inning. Freshman Chase Douglas was able to slam the door shut in the 9th, picking up his 5th save of the season. Game 2 on Tuesday was even colder than cold; however, the Pioneers were able to get the bats going and cruise to a 12-4 victory to gain some confidence heading into a series vs one of the top teams in the country this weekend.
Walters State has had little trouble disposing of not just conference foes but anyone on their schedule. The Senators are coming off their conference weekend vs Southwest outscoring them 51-7 in 3 games. And, on Tuesday, beat a once ranked Spartanburg Methodist program 23-2. "We know coming in that not a lot of people will give us much of a shot at coming out of Morristown with a win or two, especially after getting swept at home last weekend. But our kids know that committing to our program means you will have an opportunity to measure up against the best of the best and play a tough conference schedule. We certainly don't shy away from that. We wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could compete against the best of the best," said Coach Hunt. This series will be the only three games Vol State will play versus Walters State in 2017. The Senators were put on a 2017 post-season ban for NJCAA violations. "Regardless of their post-season status, they are clearly one of the most talented teams in the country. It should be a tough test for us, but a test we would rather take than pass on," added Coach Hunt.
The schedule could be flip-flopped once again as rain is predicted this Saturday in Morristown, TN. We will keep you up to date on game dates and time changes on our Twitter feed https://twitter.com/VSCCPioneersBSB. You will also be able to watch the 3 game set live on our Twitter page or Periscope (depending upon an internet connection at Walters State).