JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With two outs, runners on second and third, and a 2-2 count, Evan Fernandez struck out on a wild pitch, giving Nathan Koslowski just enough time to run home from third. Jacksonville University (20-16, 6-1 ASUN) defeated Lipscomb University (17-15, 3-4 ASUN) in a 6-5 walk-off on Thursday night.
"These guys continue to fight. They're relentless in their approach and their desire. You keep pushing and pushing, and sometimes you end up on the fortunate side of a situation. Tonight we got that wild pitch in a critical spot, and it's a credit to our guys to put us in that situation in the first place," said Head Coach Chris Hayes.
Starter Chris Gau pitched eight innings of near-perfect baseball in a return from suspension. The sophomore had seven strike outs while allowing just two earned runs and walking just one batter. Until the ninth inning Gau hadn't allowed an earned run to score.
"Chris was really sharp. It was great to see him come out the way he did. He deserved the opportunity to win this game, and we felt really good about where he was when he went back out in the ninth," said Hayes.
Singles by Koslowski, Scott Dubrule, Angel Camacho, and Mike Cassala gave JU a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and neither team scored again until Lipscomb pulled within one run in the top of the sixth.
A leadoff error that sailed into the Lipscomb dugout allowed a Bison to reach third with no outs, and the next Lipscomb batter drove home the runner on the first pitch he saw. But the Dolphin defense held the rest of the inning, catching a runner on a steal attempt while Gau earned his sixth strikeout of the evening. After six JU led 2-1.
The seventh inning was a scoreless affair for both squads, and JU scored what looked like three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. Dubrule drew a walk with one out, then was advanced to second on Camacho's second hit of the evening. Alex Seifert pinch hit for Sam Armstrong, and wore a pitch, loading the bases with one out. Fernandez singled deep into right center, plating Camacho and Dubrule. A single by Chris Lehane scored the final run of the inning, and JU led 5-1 after eight with Gau going for his first complete game.
The Bisons led off with a walk, then doubled the runner over to third with no outs. Spencer Stockton relieved Gau for the next at-bat. An infield fly froze the runners on the corners, but a 1-2 pitch was hit just hard enough to plate one run. A passed ball allowed the runners on first and second to advance, and a single and a double scored three more runs to tie the game. With two outs and the game tied the Bisons pinch hit, but the batter struck out, ending the Bison threat.
Koslowski drew a leadoff hit-by-pitch in the bottom of the ninth, and a Dubrule single through the shortstop's glove put the winning run in scoring position with no outs. Seifert hit into a fielder's choice that expired Dubrule, but it did advance Koslowski to third. Fernandez drew a 2-2 count, then swung for the fences. He struck out, but the ball shot past the catcher, allowing Koslowski to score. The final: JU 6, Lipscomb 5
"Eight games in a row doesn't matter to me," said Hayes. "Being 1-0 against Lipscomb is what matters the most. I'm excited about what we did tonight, and hopefully we come back tomorrow and make it 2-0."
Michael Baumann (1-3, 3.25 ERA) will take the mound for JU Friday against Dayton Tripp (3-2, 6.54 ERA).
Tweetable Fin Facts:
- Camacho has had at least one hit in all eight games of the Dolphin's win streak. He's now hitting .304 on the year with 28 RBI.
- The Dolphins have now won eight games in a row. The last time JU won eight games in a row was in 2001.
- Koslowski has 57 hits on the year. Before tonight's game he was tied for third in the country in total hits.