March 28, 2008
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - In a contest which featured all the elements of a Greek Tragedy, junior right fielder Thomas Myers' two-run homer in the top of the ninth set the stage for a happy ending for the Dolphins as the JU baseball team rallied to defeat USC Upstate, 8-7, Friday evening at Cleveland S. Harley Park.
JU (15-8, 8-5), which blew a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, rallied for four runs in the final three innings to help erase three defensive errors, six hit batters and two balks by the pitching staff and a combined 16 strikeouts by the offense.
Upstate (12-14, 7-6), which had three costly errors of its own, left a game-high 10 runners on base.
"It was good for us to get the home run in the ninth because it gives us the confidence to know we can find a way to rally," said JU head coach Terry Alexander. "Unfortunately, we cannot have a game where we are making so many mistakes. I'm happy for the win but it was ugly game to be a part of."
Freshman Matt Loosen (3-0) earned the win after hurling 1.1 innings of scoreless relief. Junior Billy Schlee notched his sixth save to secure the win in the ninth. Sophomore Carson Andrew earned the no-decision after allowing six runs (three earned) on eight hits while walking one and tying a career-high seven strikeouts in 4.2 innings.
Dennis McCraney (1-3) was tagged with the loss after allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit with no walks and three strikeouts in 1.1 innings of relief. Kyle Bowley also earned a no-decision after allowing six runs (three earned) on 10 hits while walking two and striking out 12 on 141 pitches in 7.1 innings of work.
Trailing 7-6 with one out in the ninth, junior catcher Jeremy Gillan hit a high fly to short center but Upstate second baseman Casey Rivers dropped the ball as his glove pointed down following the catch. In the next at-bat, Myers made them pay by sending a 3-2 pitch into the Spartanburg night in right center.
The dramatics were hardly over as Upstate's leadoff man in the ninth was hit by the first pitch. Schlee entered the contest and after Blake Green failed to put down a bunt on two attempts, he laced a shot down the first base line. Sophomore Alex Martinez, who just entered the game as a defensive substitution, made a leaping grab on the ball and tagged first base to complete the double play. Schlee ended the contest by striking out Blake Stickley.
Myers led the Dolphin offense by going 2-for-4 with a home run and a game-high four RBI. Gillan, senior shortstop Matt Lopez and sophomore second baseman Chuck Opachich also finished with multiple hits.
Kyle Simpson and Casey Rivers each finished with multiple hits to lead the Spartan offense while Andrew Runion added a two-run home run.
JU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second when Lopez hit an RBI single and later scored on a throwing error by Spartan shortstop Eric Guillen.
With two outs, freshman third baseman Glen Johnson laced a double down the left-field line. Lopez followed with a single through the left side to score Johnson and then moved to second on a single through the right side by junior catcher Brad Simmons. In the next at-bat, sophomore Opachich hit a slow grounder to short but Guillen's throw went wild to second, allowing Lopez to score.
Andrew got out of a jam in the bottom of the second when he did not allow a run despite having bases loaded and no outs. After Green lined out to Lopez at short, Stickley hit into a double play at second to end the inning.
The Dolphins increased the lead to 3-0 in the top of the third when Gillan made the Spartans pay for another error with an RBI single.
Junior left fielder Kyle Fleming reached safely and advanced to second on a throwing error by Upstate third baseman Runion to lead off the inning. Gillan followed with a sharp single to center on a 0-2 count to plate Fleming.
Andrew avoided another scoring opportunity for the Spartans by stranding Phillip Morgan at third after leading off the bottom of the fourth with a triple to right center. Following Morgan, Andrew struck out three consecutive batters swinging on 1-2 counts to end the inning.
JU made it 4-0 in the top of the fifth when Myers hit an RBI single to punish Upstate on another mishap.
Fleming led off the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a stolen base but took third on the same play when the ball got passed Morgan behind the plate. Myers followed with a single to center on a 2-2 count to plate Fleming.
The Spartans exploded for six runs on five hits, including a two-run triple by Rivers and a two-run homer by Runion in consecutive at-bats, to take advantage of a fielding error by the Dolphins and grab a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Upstate made it 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth when a runner scored from third with the bases loaded and two outs on another Dolphin fielding error. Freshman Steve Eagerton avoided more disaster by getting Keith Bisgounis to pop out to second to leave the bases loaded.
JU cut the deficit to 7-6 in the top of the seventh when Gillan hit an RBI single and Myers hit a sacrifice fly. Opachich led off the inning with a single to short and then advanced to second on a single up the middle by Ferreira, to extend his career-best hitting streak to 17 games. With one out, Gillan laced a single to center to drive in Opachich and advance Ferreira to third. Myers followed with a fly to left to plate Ferreira.
JU and Upstate will conclude its three-game series tomorrow with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. The contest can be heard live on 1010XL with Josh Ellis calling all the action and JU alum Logan James providing color commentary. The game is also available on ASun.TV and GameTracker via JUDolphins.com.