by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Down 5-0 before it ever came to bat, the Barton College baseball team produced a spirited rally against nationally-ranked Mercyhurst University on Thursday, but the No. 4 Lakers held off the Bulldogs, 9-7, in a non-conference meeting at Nixon Field.
Freshman Hunter Little led the comeback, producing RBI hits in three straight at-bats and driving in four of Barton's seven runs. Junior Ricks Dearing added a solo home run and scored three times, and freshman Mason Cooper drove in a pair of runs for the Bulldogs (7-15).
Mercyhurst, now 6-0 on the season, received two-run homers from Daniel Elliott and Matt Schneider, as well as three hits from Drew Delsignore.
Playing a team that needed no help from its opponent, the Bulldogs committed four errors that paved the way for seven unearned runs among the nine scored by the Lakers.
Three of those miscues came in the very first inning. Two of the runs scored directly on the errors, and another three scored by having the inning extended, two of those on the two-run blast to right-center by Schneider. The Lakers added two more runs in the sixth after a BC error extended the inning.
Barton starter Troy Maslowski was the victim of all seven unearned runs. He tossed six innings, scattered seven hits and did not allow an earned run. Maslowski (0-2) walked one and struck out two.
After falling behind in the first, the Bulldogs began their rally in the third. A leadoff double by Rich Trifaro and a single by Dearing set the table for Little, who drove in Trifaro with a single to center. After Chase Riker walked to load the bases, Cooper delivered a clutch two-out single inside the bag at third and down the left field line, driving in Dearing and Little to cut the Mercyhurst deficit to 5-3.
Barton closed within a run at 5-4 in the fourth when Trifaro walked, advanced to second on a Dearing groundout and came home on another single by Little to center. However, the Bulldogs helped the Lakers pull away to a 7-4 lead in the sixth after giving up the two unearned runs.
The solo home run by Dearing, his second of the year, in the bottom of the sixth cut Barton's deficit to 7-5, but the Lakers used a leadoff double by Delsignore and the home run to right-center by Elliott off BC reliever Landry Moore in the seventh to extend its lead to 9-5.
The Bulldogs closed within two one last time in the eighth when Colby Warren reached second base on a dropped fly ball by the Lakers, Dearing walked and both scored on a double into the right field corner by Little.
However, Mercyhurst closer Andrew Ciolli tossed a perfect nine to close out the Laker win and earn his second save of the year.
Ryan Smerkar (1-0), the more effective of two relievers who followed starter Tyler Garbee, was credited with the win. Smerkar gave up one hit and the two unearned runs over two innings, walking one and striking out four.
Barton will return to action on Friday against another Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference member, Clarion University. First pitch in game one of the doubleheader at Nixon Field is scheduled for noon.