by Doug Page
FLORENCE, S.C. – Despite holding two separate leads through the first three innings of play, the Barton College baseball team dropped a 9-8 decision against Southern Wesleyan University on Thursday night in non-conference action at Francis Marion University's Sparrow Stadium.
The Bulldogs (0-1) tallied eight runs, including five over the final three innings in attempting a comeback against the Warriors. Southern Wesleyan (1-0) got its offense going in the middle innings, notching six runs after being held scoreless through the opening two innings of play.
Sophomore designated hitter Chase Riker finished with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate for the Bulldogs. Riker also plated a pair of runs for BC on the night. Junior second baseman Ricks Dearing tallied three hits in five trips to the plate, scoring a pair of runs for the Bulldogs. Junior right fielder Troy Maslowski and freshman center fielder Hunter Little each had 2-for-5 efforts at the plate. Maslowski scored a run and plated a run hitting in the leadoff spot for BC, while Little scored a pair of runs and drove in one on the night. Sophomore Noah Almond delivered a pinch-hit run-scoring single for BC in the Bulldogs' three-run eighth inning.
Izzy Martinez paced the Warriors offense with a 3-for-5 effort in the leadoff spot while plating three runs and scoring one for SWU. Quinton Bent had a pair of hits on the night and delivered two RBIs for the Warriors, while Julio Justo went 2-for-5 with one RBI.
Barton scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning as Riker scored from third base after the Warriors turned a 4-6-3 double play with the bases loaded. Riker started the inning for BC with a single up the middle and would be followed by a six-pitch walk to freshman first baseman Mason Cooper. Another freshman, Tate Proctor, would load the bases for the Bulldogs with a single to the right side of second base that would be smothered with no throw to follow.
Working with a 1-0 lead entering the third inning, senior right-hander Trent Fennell allowed the first batter of the inning to reach base via a walk as Trey Matthews worked out of a 1-2 hole at the plate. Matthews advanced to second on a wild pitch and then third on a groundout to second base. The Warriors would knot the score at 1-1 as Martinez grounded out to the second baseman, allowing Matthews to score from third. Barton looked to get out of the inning with the scored tied until a dropped third strike kept the inning alive and allowed SWU to take a 2-1 lead as Justo singled through the left side.
The Bulldogs would answer right back in the bottom half of the inning as Maslowski singled to left field against Southern Wesleyan starter TJ McEvilly. Little would follow with another single to advance Maslowski to second. A four-pitch walk to junior Gatlin Pate loaded the bases for BC and led to a mound visit for the Warriors. BC jumped ahead 3-2 on the scoreboard as Riker reached on a fielder's choice. A throwing error by the first baseman allowed a pair of runs to score for Barton as both Little and Maslowski crossed the plate.
Southern Wesleyan changed the momentum of the game over the next two innings, scoring a pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth innings against Fennell and the Bulldogs. Martinez delivered the big hit for the Warriors in the fourth as his single to center field plated two runners to make it 4-3. Fennell would get out of the inning with a strikeout and strand a runner on base in the process.
The fifth inning saw the Warriors put a pair of runners in scoring position with no outs after a walk and a double by Justo down the left field line. Bent upped the SWU lead to 6-3 with a single up the middle off a 2-1 pitch from Fennell. BC would record the next two outs to escape the inning and prevent any further damage.
Sophomore Landy Moore entered the game for BC in the sixth inning, taking over for Fennell on the mound. Moore worked a pair of scoreless innings for the Bulldog out of the bullpen, allowing just one hit to go along with three strikeouts and one walk. Barton trimmed the deficit to 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning as Riker singled to left field off SWU reliever Josh Antwine. BC looked poised to keep things going with a pair of runners on base and one out until Antwine got back-to-back outs to keep his team ahead on the scoreboard.
Junior Ryan Pifer toed the mound for the Bulldogs in the eighth inning and would see the Warriors plate a pair of two-out runs to up their lead to 8-4. SWU started the inning with a groundout to first and a strikeout before a pair of hits coupled with an error by the Bulldogs allowed the momentum to shift back to the Warriors.
Barton had its best inning offensively in the home-half of the eighth as freshman catcher Danny Rodriguez doubled to left field to start the frame. Dearing followed with a single up the middle that would allow Rodriguez to advance to third and then score on a throwing error by the center fielder. Following a pitching change by the Warriors, Maslowski laced a single down the right-field line to plate Dearing and cut the SWU lead to 8-6. Almond put the Bulldogs within a run of the Warriors with his single through the right-side after coming into the game to pinch-hit.
Trying to hold the score at 8-7, junior right-hander Chase Long issued a pair of walks to two of the first three batters that he would face in the ninth inning. The Warriors plated one of those runners as a throwing error by the Bulldogs allowed SWU to take a 9-7 lead with only one out in the frame. The Bulldogs allowed just the one run to score as Long worked out of trouble by getting some help from his defense and a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch.
Needing two runs to knot the score entering the bottom of the ninth, BC would manufacture one run as Little singled through the right side to plate Dearing, who delivered a double to left field earlier in the inning. With two outs in the inning and runners on first and second, SWU reliever Kyle Cook-McCrary got Pate to hit a pop-up to the third baseman to end the game and preserve the 9-8 victory for the Warriors.
Fennell (0-1) suffered his first loss of the season for BC, allowing six runs on seven hits through five innings of work. Fennell fanned 10 batters in the game and allowed only three walks in the game. McEvilly (1-0) earned the win for the Warriors after limiting the Bulldogs to three runs and seven hits over six innings of work. McEvilly recorded nine strikeouts in the game and issued a pair of walks, while Cook-McCrary tallied his first save of the season after allowing just one run in the ninth.
Barton will face Lenoir-Rhyne on Friday at 5 p.m. as the Bulldogs continue their three-game stretch at the FMU Season-Opening Baseball Tournament in Florence, S.C. The Bulldogs face the tournament host, Francis Marion on Saturday with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.