SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 2007
Baseball falls to Mercer, 5-4, in 13 inning melee
March 31, 2007
MACON, Ga. - In a contest which featured every nuance and stage of drama that could fit into a baseball game, the Dolphins got some gutty performances but eventually fell to Mercer, 5-4, in 13 innings Friday evening in the Atlantic Sun Conference series opener at Claude Smith Field.
JU (17-16, 2-5) dropped its third consecutive conference game despite holding a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning. The Dolphins held onto an early 4-2 lead in the second after gunning down three potential base stealers and picking off two runners to get out of several jams. The Dolphin offense score four runs on two hits in the first two innings but went 2-for-31 in the final 11 innings.
Mercer (19-11, 5-2) pounded out 16 hits and drew 11 walks but managed only five runs and left 17 runners on base. The Bears ended the game in the bottom of the 13th inning when Steven Karwatt hit a single to center on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs.
"This game really hurts," said JU head coach Terry Alexander. "We jumped up early and our bullpen did a tremendous job of keeping them off the scoreboard for as long as they did. Offensively, we needed to put some more runs on the board."
Junior Matt Davis (0-1) was tagged with the loss despite allowing only two runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 5.2 innings of relief.
Senior Justin Young earned the no-decision after allowing three runs on nine hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings. Sophomore Tim Brown, freshman Glenn Witkowski and junior Adam Rapoza each combined for two innings of shutout relief.
Senior first baseman Ryan McArdle led the Dolphin offense with three hits and freshman third baseman Chuck Opachich added two singles. Senior right fielder Mike McCallister added a two-run home run to also lead the squad.
Brantley New also got a no-decision despite allowing four runs on eight hits with no walks and a career-high nine strikeouts in seven innings. Mike Armstrong led the Mercer offense by going 4-for-6 with a double and two RBI. Josh Thompson extended his hitting streak to 19 games after going 3-for-5 with a double and two intentional walks.
JU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first when McCallister hit a two-run home run over the right-center wall.
Opachich led off the inning with a single to center and then moved to second on a wild pitch by New. With one out, McCallister crushed a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field for his second home run of the season.
Mercer evened the contest, 2-2, in the bottom of the first when Mike Armstrong and Andrew Einert each hit consecutive RBI doubles to left-center field with two outs.
The Dolphins took a 4-2 lead in the top of the second when senior second baseman Logan James hit an RBI single up the middle and senior left fielder Pete Clifford hit an RBI single through the right side.
Junior center fielder Kevin Ferreira led off the inning with a single to short and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior shortstop Matt Lopez. James followed with a sharp liner up the middle on the first pitch to drive in Ferreira. In the next at-bat, Opachich singled to left field and Clifford pulled a ball through the right side to score James on a close play at the plate.
The Bears threatened with runners on second and third and two outs but Young got Einert to ground out to senior first baseman Ryan McArdle to end the inning.
Mercer cut the margin to 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth when Steven Karwatt hit an RBI double to left center field. The Bears still threatened with runners on first and second and no outs but Brown picked John Dortch off of first base, forced Jason Lowey to ground out to short and got Eric Renfroe into a fielder's choice at short to end the inning.
The Bears kept the drama going again in the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and third with only one out. Witkowski entered the game and caught Armstrong in a rundown between first and second to record the second out. After two walks to load the bases and a trio of swings that barely missed down the left field line, Rapoza struck out John Dortch looking to end the inning.
Mercer finally tied the contest, 4-4, in the bottom of the ninth after an RBI single up the middle by Armstrong to score Billy Shaughnessy after he led off the inning with a double down the left-field line. Davis ended the inning by getting Einert to ground into a double-play.
JU and Mercer will conclude its series with a doubleheader on Saturday at noon. The contest will be broadcast live on WZNZ, ESPN 1460 with Joel Lamp calling all of the action. The Dolphin Pre-Game Show will begin at 11:45 a.m.