KNOXVILLE — The Johnson University Baseball Team increased its record to 3-2 Tuesday after sweeping a two-day, two-game series with the Lincoln Christian University Red Lions. The Red Lions fell to 1-2 after narrowly dropping both nine-inning games to the Royals.
Garrett Crawford started game one for Johnson on Monday, giving up two runs in six innings and notching a win. Jonathan Howard got the save after coming in to throw the final three frames.
Although the game remained close until the end, the Royal’s offense tallied a .406 batting average on the day, leading to an eventual 9-4 victory. Jonathan Howard, Chase Burke, Justin Burgos and Chase Newsome all had multiple hit games. Newsome went 4-5 at the plate with seven RBIs and two home runs, including a grand slam in the eighth inning.
“I was just thinking line drive somewhere, maybe a ground ball between third and shortstop, maybe— just something to score somebody. He threw me my pitch low and inside, I threw my hands at it, swung pretty hard and one thing led to another,” Newsome said of his grand slam. “I was seeing the ball really well, got my timing down. It’s not like I try to hit home runs— it’s just, I try to square the ball up and let the rest take care of itself.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Lincoln forced the Royals to play catch up in a 3-0 game heading into the bottom of the fifth. Led by a critical pinch-hit RBI single from Ryan Mckinney, Johnson managed three runs in the inning. The Royals would finally pull ahead in the eighth after Garrett Crawford drew a walk with the bases loaded, bringing the game to its final score of 4-3.
Evan Duriga picked up the win for Johnson after relieving Max McCoig in the fifth and holding Lincoln hitless and scoreless in three and two-thirds innings. Griffin Tate entered in the ninth inning to pick up the save.
“I’m really happy with it,” Duriga said of his performance. “I felt like I was able to keep the ball down well to throw strikes, and the team backed me up with some really outstanding defensive stops. At the end of the day, we gutted it out.”
Head Coach Ben Fair described his team as “scrappy,” saying he was ultimately pleased with the result of the series.
“It’s a total team performance right now. We came in and, I think, showed that our grit and our perseverance payed off,” Fair said. “We’re going to try to be a little bit more aggressive Friday and Saturday and not wait until we get into the later part of the game to score runs.”
The Royals face Valley Forge at home this weekend in a three-game series, with a double-header at 1 p.m. Friday and one nine-inning game at 11 a.m. Saturday.