NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Behind good hitting, solid pitching and great defense, the Lipscomb baseball team got the 2012 season started off on the right foot with an 8-4 win over Saint Louis on the first day of the inaugural “Mule Mix Classic” on Friday afternoon at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh stadium in Nashville.
The Bison wasted no time getting the offense going with a three-run first stanza. Junior right fielder Lee Wilson started things off with a bang by lacing a double into the left centerfield gap. Wilson then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior left fielder M.L. Williams and scored on an infield single by junior centerfielder Zach Lowery.
Senior first baseman Zak Messer then ripped a double down the left field line putting a pair of runners in scoring position for junior third baseman Gray Hutchinson, who brought Lowery and Messer in to score with a single in his first at bat as a Bison.
“I can’t be any more pleased with the first eight innings,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “We executed what we needed to do offensively and we swung the bats well. Connor Sinclair put us in position to win the game and then Chris Nunn comes in and has two fantastic innings and then loses it a bit in the ninth but we were able to pull it back and at least come out with the win.”
With the lead in tow, senior righty Connor Sinclair went to work on the hill and kept the Billiken offense silenced for the most part scattering five hits in six innings of shutout work. Sinclair was efficient in the season opener tossing only 63 pitches along with walking only two batters while notching a pair of strikeouts.
“We expect that he’s going to give us five or six innings of competitive mound work,” said Forehand. “When he’s out there we have a great chance to win the game. He got himself out of a couple of jams making some big pitches.”
After a highlight reel diving catch with the bases full of Billikens to end the top of the third, Lowery ledoff the bottom of the frame as well and drew a leadoff walk that resulted in Lipscomb’s fourth run of the afternoon. Messer moved Lowery to third on his second double of the contest before Hutchinson plated Lowery for one of his three runs scored on the day with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 4-0 Bison.
The four-run advantage held until the bottom of the sixth thanks to some solid defensive plays by the Bison including senior catcher Logan Hostetler gunning down a pair of Saint Louis would be base stealers to end both the fourth and fifth innings.
“Hoss made a couple of good throws throwing a couple of guys out,” said Forehand. “Those are the kind of plays that helps a pitcher put up a zero. When you make a play like that to end an inning and then Connor made one himself on a comebacker into a double play and Zach made a great catch out there to save one inning when they had runners on base, those kinds of plays put the pitcher in a position to stay in the game as long as he did.”
The Bison added some much-needed insurance in the sixth. Junior shortstop Aaron Sandoval and senior designated hitter Shawn Mehring got the rally going with back-to-back one-out singles setting the table for junior second baseman Jonathan Craycraft, who delivered a two-out double down the right field line scoring both Sandoval and Mehring. Wilson then made it a 7-0 Lipscomb advantage with his second double of the game bringing Craycraft across the dish.
A seventh inning one-out Lowery triple and a Mehring single pushed the Bison lead to 8-0 in support of junior southpaw Chris Nunn, who came on in relief of Sinclair at the top of the seventh. Nunn handcuffed the Billikens in the seventh and eighth stanzas allowing only one batter to reach and fanning three Saint Louis hitters.
Things unraveled for Nunn in the ninth though as the lefty surrendered back-to-back walks and a single to start the frame and load the bases for the Billikens. Saint Louis used the rough start to the frame to their advantage and went on to plate four runs on a pair of hits before senior lefthander Gil Rehwinkel extinguished the threat to earn the save in relief of Nunn.
The win for the Bison was the first season-opening victory since the 2005 season when Lipscomb downed Chicago State 13-5.
Lipscomb continues action in the “Mule Mix Classic” on Saturday hosting Evansville at Noon before wrapping up the event on Sunday by hosting Kansas at 1 p.m.