by Doug Page
FLORENCE, S.C. – A two-run third inning for Lenoir-Rhyne University propelled the Bears to a 3-2 victory against the Barton College Bulldogs on a frigid Friday night in non-conference baseball action at Francis Marion University's Sparrow Stadium.
The Bulldogs (0-2) worked out of several jams defensively on the night after committing four errors in the first two innings and loading the bases in the eighth inning. Lenoir-Rhyne (1-0) used a two-run triple from Will Jones in the bottom of the third inning to stake itself to a 3-0 lead. The Bears wouldn't look back despite leaving 11 runners on base in the contest.
Sophomore designated hitter Noah Almond finished the night 2-for-3 at the plate for the Bulldogs, scoring a run and plating one run. Sophomore first baseman Chase Riker went 2-for-2 at the plate with a pair of walks and scored a run for BC, while junior second baseman Ricks Dearing had a 1-for-3 night at the plate. Junior right fielder Troy Maslowski had a 1-for-4 effort with one run batted in for the Bulldogs.
Grant Fuller's 2-for-5 night at the plate paced the Bears offensively, while Jones had one hit in four trips to the plate for Lenoir-Rhyne. Marcus Shoemaker and Aaron Stamper each scored one run on the night for the Bears.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning against junior right-hander Dylan Ward, who saw his defense commit three errors behind him in the frame. Lenoir-Rhyne would score the opening run on a pair of errors by the Bulldogs at second base. A fielding error coupled with a throwing error allowed Fuller to score on the play.
Riker started the top of the second inning off for the Bulldogs with a single up the middle on the first pitch of his at-bat. Bears starter Hunter Martin responded by fanning each of the next three BC batters to strand the runner at first and keep his team's 1-0 lead intact.
Following a 1-2-3 inning for Martin and the Bears in the top of the third inning, Lenoir Rhyne answered with a pair of runs in the bottom portion of the frame. After having the first two batters record an out in the frame, Ward hit consecutive batters to put runners on first and second. On a 1-1 pitch, Jones drove a ball into the left-center field gap to plate a pair of runs and make it 3-0. Ward ended the inning with a strikeout to strand a runner on third.
Barton got onto the scoreboard in the top of the fifth inning against Martin and the Bears as Almond singled through the left side to start the frame. Following a pair of strikeouts, Dearing hit a 1-2 pitch into right-center to advance Almond to third and put runners on the corners for BC. Maslowski drove the first pitch of his at-bat back up the middle for a run-scoring single to plate Almond.
Trailing 3-1 in the top of the sixth inning, the Bulldogs plated another run off Martin as Almond singled to center with Riker on second base. Riker would score easily on the play as BC trimmed the deficit to a single run on the scoreboard. The Bears would get out of the inning with a strikeout on a dropped third-strike.
Both sides would turn to the bullpen in the seventh inning as Barton called upon freshman Colby Warren, who started the night at third base for the Bulldogs. Lenoir-Rhyne handed the ball to Connor Dailey, who worked a scoreless inning of relief for the Bears.
Warren worked a pair of scoreless frames for the Bulldogs but not before running into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth inning. After recording the first out of the inning, Warren would hit three of the next four batters to load the bases for the Bears. The Bulldogs would get out of the bases-loaded jam as Warren got Fuller swinging on a 0-2 pitch for the third out of the frame.
Landon Whitson closed the door for the Bears over the final two innings, allowing just one BC batter to reach base as Riker worked a walk in the top of the eighth inning. Whitson worked a 1-2-3 top of the ninth inning to earn the save and secure the 3-2 win for the Bears.
Ward (0-1) suffered his first loss of the season for BC after allowing just three runs (two earned) on three hits. Ward fanned nine Lenoir-Rhyne batters in the game and allowed just one walk. Martin (1-0) earned the win for the Bears after scattering six hits on the night and fanning nine batters. Whitson recorded a pair of strikeouts in his two innings of work en route to notching his first save of the season for Lenoir-Rhyne.
Barton will face Francis Marion University on Saturday afternoon with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. as the Bulldogs wrap-up their three games in the FMU Season-Opening Baseball Tournament in Florence, S.C.