NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite a fast start out of the gate, the Lipscomb baseball team dropped a 4-3 non-conference tilt to visiting Evansville in the “Mule Mix Classic” at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Bison (1-1) started out with a bang as senior right fielder Lee Wilson ripped a double off the base of the fence in the right centerfield gap and came right home to score on a single to centerfield by senior left fielder M.L. Williams. Lipscomb then added another run in the inning when junior centerfielder Zach Lowery walked, swiped second and came across the dish on a double ripped to the gap by senior first baseman Zak Messer.
“You’re going to leave runners on sometimes in games,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “The bottom line is we gave too many free passes today. The base on balls sometimes comes back to haunt you. We’re in good shape but we had an opportunity today that we let slip away.”
The Purple Aces (1-1) took advantage of a failed pickoff attempt in the third to cut into the slim cushion for the Bison. Evansville right fielder Tim Bodine reached on a one-out bunt single and then moved into scoring position on a misplayed pickoff by the Bison. That set the table Evansville leadoff hitter Eric Stamets, who delivered a single right back up the middle to make it a 2-1 contest.
The score held 2-1 in Lipscomb’s favor until the fifth inning when Messer took a pitch deep to make it a 3-1 lead on the first homer of the year for the Bison.
The seventh inning would prove to be the difference in the contest as the Purple Aces would push across three runs on the Lipscomb bullpen. A leadoff walk by Stamets and a double by centerfielder Kevin Kaczmarski got the rally started. A groundout then moved Kaczmarksi to third and Evansville got runners on the corners when catcher Chris Pearson walked.
That set Evansville up for a squeeze play and first baseman Jake Mahon pushed the ball down the first baseline allowing Kaczmarksi to score and Pearson to move to second on the sacrifice. That would be a key play in the game as Evansville designated hitter Kyle Pollock then ripped a double off of senior southpaw Ben Johnson that scored Pearson in what would be the game-winning run.
In his first live in-game action on the mound since 2009, Lipscomb redshirt freshman Hunter Brothers was brought in to stop the bleeding in the seventh and he shut the door on the Purple Aces. Brothers fanned left fielder Andrew Lasher on three straight pitches and proceeded to pitch the final two and two-thirds innings for Lipscomb allowing only one hit and notching four strikeouts in his collegiate debut.
“First time out of the shoot for him, it’s pretty good,” said Forehand. “You gotta think he was going to be a little bit nervous coming out the first time but he didn’t show it and hopefully that’s something he can build on. That was a great performance.”
The Bison threatened in both the seventh and eighth innings getting a runner into scoring position in each inning but as was the trend on the afternoon, both were left stranded. Lipscomb left eight men on base on the afternoon including six in scoring position.
Johnson was charged with the loss on the hill after last only two-thirds of an inning allowing two earned runs on two hits and issuing one walk. Junior lefty Blake Fonfara started on the hill for Lipscomb going four full innings and giving up four hits and one earned run while walking a pair and fanning three.
Kyle Lloyd earned the win in relief for Evansville allowing two hits in two and two-thirds innings of work. Josh Briggs worked the final one and one-thirds inning to earn the save.
The Bison conclude the “Mule Mix Classic” on Sunday at 1 p.m. hosting Kansas at Dugan Field.