Toccoa Falls opened the baseball season with a road trip to NAIA Bryan College on January 31 – February 1. The series was the season opener for Bryan College as well. The home Lions defeated Toccoa 5-1 in the opener, but TFC swept Saturday’s doubleheader 11-7 and 9-2.
Senior Dylan Charles took the ball for the Eagles in the season opener. The game remained scoreless until Bryan College plated an unearned run in the bottom of the third inning to take a 1-0 lead. After not allowing an earned run in five innings, Charles gave way to the bullpen with Bryan clinging to a 1-0 lead, but the young bullpen was unable to hold off the powerful Lions. Bryan padded its lead and added four runs off four hits and six walks over the final three innings. Trailing 5-0 in the top of the 9th, Justin Key singled and later scored on a Bryan College error for the Eagles’ lone run of the game.
“We hit the ball hard early, but we abandoned our offensive approach,” said Coach Justin Pollock. “Their pitcher kept us off balance, and our bullpen did not give us a chance to stay in the game.”
Charles’ finished with 5 innings pitched, three hits allowed, one run, zero earned runs, three walks, and four strikeouts. Shortstop Jordan Couillard went 2-4 at the plate and was the only Eagle with multiple hits.
The Eagles looked to rebound from Friday’s loss in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader. TFC’s hope for its first win of the season looked slim as the Eagles fell behind 7-0 after two innings. Bryan’s first 8 batters reached safely and scored 5 in the first and added two more in the second inning. Brady McMichael came on for the Eagles in the long relief role and did not allow further damage.
TFC continued to trail 7-0 until the third inning. With two outs and no runners on, TFC rallied to get on the board. TFC’s next 7 hitters would reach safely, including a base loaded, three run double off the center field wall from Jordan Couillard. Josh Hill followed and plated Couillard with a single to left. The two out rally closed Bryan’s advantage to 7-4.
Senior Russ Pritchett singled in the top of the fourth and would later score on a Will Patrick RBI single. With momentum on TFC’s side, the Eagles trailed 7-5 after four innings.
After barely missing a home run in his previous at bat, Jordan Couillard closed Bryan’s lead to 7-6 in the 5th inning with his first home run of the year, a monster shot left-center.
In the top of the 6th inning, Ronnie Stewart, Will Patrick, and Zack Warner were issued consecutive walks. Jordan Couillard followed and his sacrifice fly scored Stewart to tie the game, and Justin Key’s RBI single to right scored Patrick to give TFC an 8-7 lead.
Bryan College transfer Colton Roberts made his TFC debut in the bottom of the 6th inning and relieved McMichael with the go-ahead runner on first. With Bryan’s best hitter at the plate and two away, Roberts ended the threat with an innocent comebacker to the mound.
The Eagles would add insurance runs in the 7th inning, courtesy of Will Patrick’s double off the left-center field fence with the bases loaded. Patrick’s three RBI’s increased TFC’s lead to 11-7. Roberts struck out two Bryan hitters in the bottom of the 7th to earn his first save. McMichael was credit with the win, a first for the TFC sophomore.
In TFC first win of the young season, Will Patrick was 2-3 at the plate with two runs scored, four runs batted in, and a double. Jordan Couillard finished 2-4 with a double and a home run, two runs scored, a sacrifice fly, and 5 RBI’s. Ronnie Stewart scored three runs and added a stolen base. Catcher Russ Pritchett threw out two would-be base stealers from behind the plate.
In the third and final game of the series, TFC’s Justin Key allowed two earned runs in the first inning, but rebounded to strike out the side in the second. As they did in the first game of the day, TFC plated four runs in the top of the third to take a 4-2 lead. Ward led off the inning with a walk and Stewart and Patrick followed with singles to load the bases. After Ward scored on a pass ball, Warner singled and drove in Stewart and Patrick. Couillard followed and doubled to right on a 0-2 count that scored Warner from first. Couillard was thrown out at third trying to stretch it out to a triple.
Leading 4-2, Stewart, Patrick, and Warner led off the 6th with three straight walks. Couillard reached on an error by Bryan’s shortstop, but was credited with an RBI as the run would have scored regardless of the error. Freshman Tray Hill entered the game as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded. In his second career at bat, Tray Hill cleared the bases with a moonshot, grandslam to right field (pictured above). TFC’s 5 runs in the 6th gave the Eagles a comfortable 9-2 lead.
Key went the distance on the mound and helped the Eagles sweep Saturday’s doubleheader. After allowing two runs in the first inning, Key scattered five singles over the remaining 6 innings. Key finished the complete game with 8 hits, two runs, two earned runs, zero walks, and 6 strikeouts.
Jordan Couillard doubled and added two more RBI’s in game three. In the series, Couillard finished 5-10 from the plate with a home run, two doubles, three runs scored, a sacrifice fly, a stolen base, and 7 runs batted in. Zack Warner added two RBI’s in the win, and Tray Hill finished 1-1 with a home run and four RBI’s.
Coach Pollock said when reflecting on the series, “It is good to play well this early. It’s also good to see what we’re capable of against a very talented program like Bryan. This weekend doesn’t guarantee future success, but it shows us what we’re capable of when we play up to our potential.”
TFC will travel to Southern Wesleyan on Friday and Saturday for a three game series. In 2013, TFC took two of three games from Southern Wesleyan.