Vikings, Mountaineers Split Baseball Twin Bill
By Matthew D. Stokes
BerryVikings.com Staff Writer
ROME, Ga. – Berry split its Saturday morning doubleheader with visiting Berea at William R. Bowdoin Field. Berea won the opener 5-3 before Berry bounced back to take the second game, 4-2.
Due to weather concerns, first pitch was bumped up from 1 p.m. to 9 a.m.
In the opener, Berry's starting pitcher, left-hander Cameron Rich, had a shaky first inning, allowing the first six batters to reach base. After hitting the second and third hitters, Rich surrendered a bases-clearing double to left field by Berea's Austin Hunt, giving the visiting team a quick 3-0 lead.
After allowing one more earned run in the third inning, Rich exited the game having pitched four frames and allowed four earned runs. He also hit four batters.
Berry avoided further damage in the top of the sixth as Michael Gwin, making his college varsity debut in relief of Christian Champion, struck out the first batter he faced, Hunt, on three pitches with the bases loaded.
Berry put together a brief rally in the bottom of the sixth. Austin Neely lined a RBI double down the first base line to score Brandyn Jackson from second. Gaylor then scored from third on Berea's Kyle Tibbs' wild pitch. Then, Tibbs was replaced by Cody McDaniel a full count to Thomas Johnson. The move paid off as McDaniel struck out Johnson swinging on his first pitch and managed to allow only one run, which came on a Cason Dremann sacrifice fly.
Trailing 5-3, Gwin worked out of another bases-loaded jam in the seventh, inducing an inning-ending fielder's choice off the bat of Blake Sullivan. Gwin pitched an inning and a third of scoreless ball, striking out two batters.
Berry failed to muster any more offense in the bottom of the seventh against Lance Sheets, who faced four batters and earned the save.
Tibbs was credited the win after going five innings and allowing five hits and three earned runs. Berry's Rich took the loss.
Austin Neely led Berry with two base hits. Berea's Hunt had three hits while Blake Crowe singled twice.
In the second game, it was the opposite situation as Berry struck first on a Dremann RBI single in the bottom of the third inning. The Vikings scored another run in the fourth, courtesy of a dropped fly ball by Berea's Sullivan in left field, which allowed Kevin Scott to score from third base. After four innings, Berry had given its starter, right-hander Casey Gray, a 2-0 lead.
Then Berea responded. After several misplays, including a wild pitch by Gray that allowed a runner to score, the Mountaineers successfully executed a suicide squeeze to drive home a runner from third and tie the score 2-2. Sullivan was the man behind the magic, laying down a beauty and hustling to first base for a bunt hit after Berry's first baseman was caught out of position.
It did not take Berry long to bounce back. Its first three hitters in the bottom of the fifth each had base hits, including Zach Farmer's tiebreaking RBI single to right center field. By the end of the inning, Berry led 4-2.
The rest of the way, Berry was in good hands with Gray pitching a complete game three-hitter, which he punctuated by striking out the side in the top of the seventh.
"I didn't think he had his great stuff, but I think he did a magnificent job of battling, and that's what a great pitcher does," said Berry head coach David Beasley. "When his stuff's not the best that he's ever had, he goes out there and competes."
Gray finished with eight strikeouts against one walk. Trent Hazelwood took the loss for Berea, pitching two-thirds of an inning and allowing one earned run.
Berry was led by Gaylor and Dremann, both of whom had two hits.
The Vikings return to the Bowdoin Field on Tuesday at 2 p.m. when they face Bates College in a doubleheader.
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