JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Behind a complete game performance from senior Connor Sinclair, the Lipscomb baseball team downed homestanding North Florida 6-1 on Friday night in Jacksonville at Harmon Field to improve to 9-4 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, the best league start in school history.
“You know when your best guy goes out there and gives you a complete game on Friday night it’s a pretty special thing,” said Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand. “All year long he’s been pitching us deep into the game but this was his game tonight from start to finish. I’m proud of his performance and it’s a huge lift for the team.”
After getting out of a pair of early jams in the game and stranding four North Florida (21-16, 4-9 A-Sun) runners in the first three innings, Sinclair settled into a groove and retired 12 straight Ospreys before giving up a leadoff walk in the eighth. That walk would lead to a run ending Sinclair’s shutout bid but that was all the damage UNF could muster.
“When you’re in a jam and you work yourself out of it that’s a big lift for the team. It seems like he always makes a big pitch in a big situation.”
Sinclair earned the win to improve to 5-2 on the season allowing four hits, all of which came in the first three frames. The right-hander fanned six Ospreys while walking only two to claim the first complete game since March 3, 2011 when Richie Goodenow went the distance against Purdue.
Despite a number of hits early, a handful of base-running errors kept the Bisons (17-17, 9-4 A-Sun) off the scoreboard but the offense finally got the goose egg off the board in the fifth. Junior catcher Taylor Stewart ripped a two-out double off the top of the fence that was knocked down by the wind stopping a sure home run. Junior designated hitter Ricky Coleman then singled up the middle allowing Stewart to break open the scoring.
The 1-0 score held until the eighth when Stewart got things going again with a leadoff single up the middle. Coleman then dropped a perfect bunt down the first-base line that UNF starter Michael Renner fielded and fired into the back of Coleman, who was in the running lane and ruled safe on the errant throw.
A sacrifice bunt by junior right fielder Lee Wilson moved both runners into scoring position for senior left fielder M.L. Williams, who hit a routine pop up to third but the ball was dropped back behind the base and it allowed Stewart to score and Coleman took advantage of no one covering third to give LU runners on the corners.
Coleman’s advance proved to be key as Williams took off for second during the next at bat and drew a throw that went into centerfield that allowed Coleman to score easily from third and make it a 3-0 lead.
“The bottom of the lineup had six hits, four runs scored and just great at bats all night,”said Forehand. “A great team win tonight.”
The Ospreys would tally their only run in the eighth when a leadoff walk, a wild pitch and a pair of groundouts led to the score.
Lipscomb then answered right back in the ninth as junior centerfielder Zach Lowery hit a 2-2 slider off the UNF scoreboard to make it a three-run lead again. Junior shortstop Aaron Sandoval followed Lowery’s bomb with an infield single to short that was booted into foul territory and Sandoval ended up on second.
Junior third baseman Gray Hutchinson followed with another shot off the left field fence for a double and Sandoval cruised across the dish for a 5-1 lead. Hutchinson then moved up to third on an infield single by Coleman and then scored on a groundout making it 6-1.
The win snapped a 20-game road losing streak for the Bisons and a streak of 22 straight losses away from Dugan Field for LU.
The Bisons go for their fourth-straight A-Sun series win on Saturday at Noon.