LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The Covenant baseball team is on top of the USA South. The Scots claimed the conference regular season title, and an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III tournament, with a doubleheader sweep of Averett on Saturday.
Covenant (26-13, 19-8 USA South) needed a three-game sweep of Averett in this weekend's series to win the title and the Scots did just that. Covenant won Friday's opener 14-2, then took care of business on Saturday with a 14-7 win in the series' second game followed by a 5-2 win in the finale.
The Scots become the second program in school history to earn a USA South championship as the men's cross country team achieved the feat in November of 2013.
In the preseason, the Scots were projected as the USA South favorite and the team lived up to its top billing. Covenant swept five of the nine conference series, but still needed to earn a sweep this weekend to fend off Ferrum in the standings. The Scots and Ferrum finished with identical 19-8 conference records, but Covenant won the tiebreaker by virtue of taking two-of-three from the Panthers in early April.
To make the day more special, Covenant recognized its four seniors in between games. Chris Rollins, Carter Finch, David Lockwood and Paul Phillips have helped the program become a consistent winner. The four seniors have been a part of 105 wins over the last four years, the most by any senior class in school history.
GAME ONE: Covenant 14, Averett 7
In game one, Will Carlton had four RBIs and Covenant pounded out 18 hits en route to a 14-7 rout over Averett.
Carlton drove in all four of his runs in his first three at-bats of the game as he went 2-for-3. The sophomore singled in two runs with two outs in the first inning and then doubled home a pair in a four-run fourth inning.
Covenant scored plenty of runs in support of starting pitcher Micah Mabe. Mabe (4-2) struggled in the first two innings, but would get into a groove later as he went eight strong innings allowing four earned runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts.
After Averett grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Covenant answered with three runs in its half of the frame highlighted by a Gillespie RBI double and Carlton's two-run single. Averett scored twice in the second, but the Scots took the lead for good with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning on Cleland's two-run double to right field that made it 5-3.
The Scots opened some breathing room with a four-run fourth inning as Carlton drove in two more runs. Hunter produced a sacrifice fly and Phillips singled in the fourth run of the inning to give the Scots a 9-3 edge.
Lockwood continued to add to his career record of doubles with his 65th two-bagger in the fifth inning that plated two runs. Covenant added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Taylor Davis (2-3) received the loss on the mound for the Cougars as he gave up three earned runs in three innings. At the plate, Davis went 1-for-4 with a solo homer. Chatham Currie went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and Cody Moore added a solo home run.
GAME TWO: Covenant 5, Averett 2
Needing a win to clinch the conference, Covenant scored two runs in the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie and starter Alhanon Miller went the distance to lead the Scots to a 5-2 win.
Miller (5-4) gave up two runs in the second inning, but was spotless from that point forward. The tall right-hander scattered eight hits and struck out two in a clutch performance to get his team into the postseason. Miller struck out Averett's Kevin Alvarez for the final out which led to a massive dog pile beside the mound.
In the two-run sixth for the Scots, an Averett error to begin the inning led to both runs being unearned. Perry Rigby reached to leadoff the inning via a fielding error at shortstop and later scored on a Carlton sacrifice fly. One batter later, Z Arima gave the Scots a 4-2 lead with a single to center field.
Covenant added a run in the eighth as consecutive doubles from Rigby and Lockwood made it 5-2. Miller would close out the game retiring the final seven men he faced.
Arima went 2-for-4 with an RBI to lead the Scots. Five different players recorded a hit apiece. Carlton drove in two runs, while Lockwood and Rollins had an RBI each.
Averett scored twice in the second inning to grab an early 2-0 lead. Covenant got one run back in its half of the second when Carlton singled to shortstop that enabled Rigby to score. Covenant tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth on a Rollins RBI double to right-center field.
Averett starter Moore (5-5) was effective as he went seven innings allowing two earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts. Jason Carter had three of Averett's eight hits.