April 12, 2014

No. 11 Baseball splits with Centre to open SAA series

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—After struggling offensively in game one, the No. 11 Birmingham-Southern baseball team rebounded in game two to split with Centre in Southern Athletic Association action, Saturday afternoon at Striplin Field.

The split takes the Panthers to 26-9 overall and 14-3 in the SAA, giving them a two-game lead over Rhodes atop the conference standings. Centre is now 12-18 on the season and 6-9 in the SAA.

Game one of the series featured a pitcher's duel between the two hurlers, Panther starter junior Blake Stevens (6-2) and Colonel starter Rob Caudill (1-4), who both worked complete-game performances. Stevens surrendered only four hits and two runs, while striking out six. Unfortunately for the home team, Caudill only allowed two hits in his shutout victory.

In game two, the theme of strong starting pitching continued for the Panthers. Senior Miles Nordgren (5-2) pitched a complete-game shutout to even the weekend series at one game apiece. Nordgren fanned five, allowed three hits, and issued no walks.

Pitching was the only familiar theme from game one as the BSC offense came alive to post eight runs in the game and started early by scoring a run in the first. Lead-off hitter sophomore Matt Brown reached base after a Centre throwing error and advanced to second a batter later when senior Evan Grovenstein dropped a bunt single down the first base line. An RBI from senior Jeremy Hatley scored Brown to give the Panthers the early 1-0 lead. A walk in the fourth for sophomore Taylor McCracken, one of his game-high two free passes, brought home freshman Zach Wingate to extend the lead to 2-0.

The Panthers blew the game open in the fifth. The inning started with consecutive singles for Grovenstein, junior Jacob Mayfield, and Hatley to load the bases. A pair of fielder's choice RBI from Wingate and junior Wes Kent plated Grovenstein and Mayfield. BSC pushed the lead out to 5-0 when junior Jake Campbell hit the first of his game-high three RBI with a single to score Hatley.

BSC kept the foot on the gas in the bottom of the sixth when a Wingate single to left scored Mayfield from second. A fielding error then helped Kent reach base and moved Wingate to second. With runners at first and second, a triple to left-center from Campbell cleared the bases to wrap up the Panther scoring.

The Panthers wore special jerseys today as part of a fundraiser for Mitchell's Place, a facility in Birmingham dedicated to helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The two squads return to the Hilltop Sunday afternoon for a 1 p.m. affair to decide the series.