by Kevin Buczek
WILSON, N.C.-The North Greenville University baseball team scored the first three runs and then held off a late Barton rally including a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth to win the Conference Carolinas series opener 3-2 at Fleming Stadium on Friday evening.
The Crusaders improved to 24-15 overall and 13-6 in the league. The Bulldogs dropped to 12-24 and 4-13. The two teams will conclude the series with a doubleheader at Nixon Field on Saturday beginning at Noon.
NGU took advantage of a pair of BC errors that led to two unearned insurance runs.
The first half of the game featured a pitcher's duel between Crusaders senior Drew Provence and Bulldogs junior Christian Oliver. Provence (4-1) scattered six hits over six scoreless frames to eventually earn the win. Oliver (2-3) went seven strong allowing just one earned run on four hits and six walks while fanning three.
North Greenville got on the board with two runs in the sixth. A two-out walk by junior Adam Taylor and a single by senior Derek Fulmer set up the scoring situation before senior David Frazier provided the first run. Frazier belted a ground ball off the glove diving first baseman that trickled just beyond first base. Taylor was able to score from second base on the play as an errant throw home sailed to the backstop which then allowed Fulmer to score.
Barton's second error that allowed the Crusaders leadoff hitter to reach base in the eighth proved costly as freshman Allen Staton ripped a two-out RBI-double in the right field gap.
Senior Ryan Daughtry ended the Crusaders shutout bid with a solo home run to right field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Daughtry has hit home runs in consecutive games and moves into a tie with sophomore Collins Cuthrell for the team lead in homers with six each.
Barton made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth that got started with singles by juniors Clay Martin and Tyler Barrington. Senior reliever Nate Richards was able to get the first two outs on a couple of ground ball fielder's choices before loading the bases with a walk to senior Chris Rawlings. Richards then issued a second straight base on balls to junior Phillip Williams that plated pinch runner JT Virant and pull the Bulldogs to within one.
Cuthrell – who entered the contest riding a 16 game hit streak – came up with the bases loaded as Barton's leading hitter but flew out to left field to end the rally. Cuthrell's streak ended at 16 games after going 0-for-5.
Barrington and Daughtry were both 3-for-4 to account for six of the Bulldogs 10 hits.
Richards earned his second save of the season after keeping the Crusaders ahead for the final three innings.
NGU senior leadoff hitter Markus Duckworth was 2-for-4 with two stolen bases.