The chance for a top tier seed will certainly not be won this weekend, but the prospect of one could fade away with a bad road trip for the Pioneers. Vol State (22-10) (9-6 TCCAA) will travel to Cleveland, TN to face the Cleveland State Cougars (22-14) (6-9 TCCAA), the Cougars are coming off a tough road trip to Morristown last weekend. Losing all 3 to Walters State which is not uncommon so far in 2018, but the Cougars were able to make a decent game of it in game 3 of the series only losing 9-7 to the Senators. Conference leader Walters State hits their toughest stretch on the conference schedule the rest of the way, but their current 26 game winning streak indicates they may not cough up a 4 game lead which they currently hold over current 2nd place team Columbia State in the standings. Two games back from Columbia sits Vol State, Chattanooga State, Motlow State, and Dyersburg State. Cleveland State is just 3 games behind that pack and should be eager to prove they belong in the race as well.
TCCAA Standings-- http://www.tjccaa.com/sports/bsb/2017-18/standings
Week 6 of TCCAA play provides an opportunity to solidify the Pioneers spot at the table in what looks to be a shootout for the #2 seed in the conference tournament starting in May. The Pioneers were able to set themselves up for this run by sweeping Jackson State at home last week. It was the first conference sweep since week 1 when the Neers went to Columbia and took all 3. The Chargers are hot as of late after sweeping last week's 2nd place team Motlow State, and have grabbed the 2 seed for now. There are indicators pointing towards 4 or 5 schools vying for that spot even up until the last weekend, so the next few weeks are crucial to be able to stay in the race.
Vol State dropped 2 of 3 to Cleveland in their 2017 regular season series in Gallatin, but the Pioneers were able to best them in the conference tournament which was also in Gallatin in 2017. Vol State has had some success on the road so far this year, going 6-3 in conference road games. Cleveland State has proved to be a very good home team as their 2018 home record stands at 14-5 which included 3 walk off wins in week 1 versus Roane State. This year's Cougars come in hitting at a .317 clip which includes an impressive 68 total doubles on the year. Cleveland State will run out some fantastic arms on the mound as well. There 5.24 team ERA leaves a bit to be desired but their 9.43 K/9inning ratio is impressive. The Cougars are well coached by a seasoned veteran in Mike Policastro. Policastro also serves as the Athletic Director for Cleveland State, and has been at the helm for the Cougars for 18 seasons amassing 583 wins in that span. Vol State comes into the series with a .288 batting average while the pitching staffs ERA sits at 3.82. http://www.tjccaa.com/sports/bsb/2017-18/teams?sort=&r=0&pos=h
Week 5 Recap:
Game 1 – Full Box Score http://www.volstatepioneers.com/sports/bsb/2017-18/boxscores/20180330_58ne.xml
Vol State was able to capture their first home conference sweep of 2018 as they were able to take 3 from Jackson State in Gallatin last weekend. The sweep was huge for the Pioneers to get back in the conference race with only 4 weeks remaining. Sophomore Jacob Cole got the Neers to a place to control the series giving them 6 strong innings. Cole allowed 3 runs (2 Earned), scattering 5 hits, only 2 walks, while striking out 9 Generals. The offense couldn't get going in time to give Cole the win, but did allow for freshman Jack Sensing to pick up his first collegiate win. Sensing was used as the bridge to get to sophomore Tony Costas. Costas came in to get the final out of the 8th as the Neers clung to a 2 run lead. Costas made quick work of the Generals in the 9th and picked up his 2nd save of 2018. Sophomores Baylor Steelman, Jake Lyle, and Matt Brown wasted little time in asserting their offensive imprint on the weekend stat line. Steelman was 2/3, 2BB's, and 2 runs scored. Lyle went 3/4, collecting 4 RBI, and added a double to his resume. Brown was also 2/3 with 2 runs scored. Freshman Lofton Cotton did damage as well providing the Neers with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Vol State won Game 1 by the score of 7-5.
Game 2 – Full Box Score http://www.volstatepioneers.com/sports/bsb/2017-18/boxscores/20180331_kdmh.xml
The Neers came out looking sharp, as the all-white from head to toe uniform coordination won the eye test uniform battle to start the day. The pitching staff turned arguably their best performance of 2018. The Neers staff turned in 10 scoreless innings for their first conference shut-out of the season. Sophomore Chase Douglas provided 7 of those scoreless innings. Douglas struck out 6 generals while scattering 4 hits and 4 walks in his scoreless effort. Costas was able to add to his impressive weekend with 3 scoreless innings to pick up his 3rd win on the season. The offense couldn't get the starter Douglas the win despite collecting 12 hits before the 13th hit from freshman Bill Hamilton. Hamilton came up in the 10th after sophomore Joe McNamee led off the inning with a single followed by a Lyle single that pushed the winning run to third. Hamilton delivered the game winning single after falling behind 0-2 in the at bat, and the Pioneers took game 2 1-0 in 10 innings.
Game 3 – Full Box Score http://www.volstatepioneers.com/sports/bsb/2017-18/boxscores/20180331_40km.xml
The Neers sent sophomore James Hatcher to the mound in game 3 to try and secure conference sweep number 2 in 2018. Hatcher looked to escape trouble in the 1st inning, but the Generals were able to grab a 2 run lead off a 2 out hit. Hatcher who was skipped in the rotation the previous week to rest his arm after coming off Tommy John surgery in 2017 settled in and shut down the Generals the rest of the way and picked up his first win of the year. The offense exploded in game 3, taking a commanding 8-2 lead after 3 innings. The Neers added 5 more runs over the next 2 innings capped by Lyle's second homerun of the game which ended the day early as Vol State won 13-2 in 5 innings. Lyle capped off his impressive weekend which saw him go 8/13, 2 HR's, with 9 RBI. Freshman Jordan Jackson added a 2 run homerun to his resume in the second inning. Steelman also added 2 hits to his impressive 6 hit weekend for the Pioneers. Cotton also provided 2 hits to push his total hits on the weekend to 5.