BURLINGTON, N.C.- The league’s leading hitter, junior first baseman Fico Kondla, came up with a walk-off single to lift second-seeded Coker College to a come-from-behind 8-7 victory over fifth-seeded Pfeiffer University in the opening round of the 2013 Conference Carolinas Baseball Tournament on Thursday at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
The Cobras – ranked sixth in the first NCAA Southeast Region Poll released on Wednesday – trailed by one run heading to the bottom of the ninth before rallying on the Falcons. Senior closer Jeff Barkley put himself in trouble with consecutive two-out walks followed by a wild pitch before junior T.J. Giczkowski knocked in the tying run with an infield single.
Coker (30-13 Overall) advances to play third-seeded King on Friday at 7 p.m. Pfeiffer (18-31) plays an elimination game in the double-elimination bracket tourney against the loser of the No. 1 Mount Olive/No. 6 Erskine game on Friday at 11 a.m.
The two squads traded the lead a pair of times over the first four innings before the Falcons held a narrow advantage for the next five innings until the Cobras final out.
Freshman center fielder Justin Blechle led off the bottom of the first with his first collegiate home run, a solo blast to right to give Coker the initial 1-0 lead. The Falcons soared in front, 3-1, with three runs in the top of the third. Junior third baseman Tyler Summers started the frame with a game-tying solo home run to the right-center field yard. A triple by senior right fielder Jacob Yates put Pfeiffer ahead before he scored on a single by junior second baseman Kyle Hackney to cap the inning.
Summers increased his home run total to four on the season.
The Cobras slithered back on top, 5-3, with four tallies in the home half of the third. Four of the first five Coker hitters reached with singles. A base knock by junior designated hitter Zach Loraine drove in the first run before a bases-clearing, three-run double down the right field line by junior right fielder Ernie Kirkwood catapulted the Cobras into the lead.
Pfeiffer put up another three spot in the fourth to take its second lead. The rally included an RBI single by Yates and a two-run, go-ahead single up the middle by Hackney.
The Falcons tacked on an insurance run in the top of the sixth to extend its cushion to 7-5. Junior center fielder Kevin Price led off with a double over the right fielder and eventually scored from third on a double play groundout.
Kirkwood led off the bottom of the sixth with a single and later scored on an RBI fielder’s choice by Blechler to pull the Cobras within one.
Coker nearly tied the game in the eighth. Kondla led off with a single and advanced on a sac bunt but a diving catch by Yates in right with two outs on a hard hit by junior Shea Bell preserved the lead for the upset-minded Falcons until the designated hosts made the unlikely comeback down to its final out.
Kondla, who boasts a .416 batting average after the contest, was 2-for-4. Coker ripped a total of 14 hits with Giczkowski pacing the Cobras with four base knocks. Loraine (2-2), the Cobras closer who tossed a scoreless top of the ninth to earn the win on the mound, scored twice.
Pfeiffer finished with a dozen hits with Yates and Hackney each totaling three. Hackney recorded three RBI while Yates, Summers and Price all rounded the bases three times. Barkley (2-2) suffered the loss.