NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Propelled by a pair of late home runs and four perfect innings of relief by Nick Andros, the Lipscomb baseball team downed Atlantic Sun Conference foe Northern Kentucky 4-2 on Saturday night at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.
The win clinched a berth in the 2014 A-Sun Championship to be held May 21-25 in Ft. Myers, Fla.
A two-out rally by the Bisons (26-18, 14-6 A-Sun) led to the game’s first run of the evening as redshirt-freshman catcher Tyler Bethune and junior centerfielder Jonathan Allison drew back-to-back walks with two away in the third. That set the table for junior shortstop Grant Massey, who delivered an RBI single to bring Bethune across the dish.
The Bisons added a run in the fourth as sophomore Austin Sistrunk got things going with his 10th double of the season and then came in to score on an RBI single by junior Tyson Ashcraft to make it a 2-0 advantage.
That 2-run cushion would be short lived as the Norse answered right back in the top of the fifth as a Lipscomb error, a walk and a hit-by-pitch would contribute to a pair of runs for the Norse (12-28, 5-12 A-Sun). With the bases loaded, NKU’s Zac Asman singled to right. That brought David Head home easily but a strong throw from the outfield appeared to have Kyle Colletta nailed at the plate but a jumping dive by the shortstop saw him slip past a tag from Bethune.
That score would hold until the bottom of the eighth when Bethune avenged the safe call by blasting a 1-0 pitch into the night sky over the 375 sign in left center.
“That was a huge, two-out swing for him,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “
Josh Lee then cranked a blast in the eighth inning to give the Bisons an insurance tally and round out the scoring.
Redshirt-junior righty Hunter Brothers did not factor in the decision tossing five innings in his ninth start of the season. Brothers gave up five hits, one earned run and one walk, while fanning seven Norse batters.
Andros came on in the sixth to relieve brothers and retired all 12 NKU batters he faced to pick up his fourth win of the season. The southpaw fanned two batters in the victory.
“That’s been our formula for most Saturday’s”, sad Forehand. “Hunter takes us as far as he can and then we had a great opportunity to get Nick in to face a lefty in the sixth.
“Then Nick came in and got 12 in a row. You can’t talk about it being any better than that. Nick coming out of the bullpen just gives us another weapon. Hunter pitched well too and got out of a tough jam in the fifth. Both of those guys give us a great opportunity to win on Saturdays and I’m proud of what they did.”
Jake Shaw took the loss for Northern Kentucky in relief. Shaw went two and two-thirds innings giving up three hits and one earned run to fall to 2-5 on the year.
Massey and Bethune led the Bisons with two hits each in the win. Bethune was 2-for-2 with a walk, a home run, an RBI and two runs scored, while Massey was 2-for-4 with a run driven in.
Already leading the league in twin killings coming into the night, the Bisons recorded double plays No. 48 and 49 on the season to end threats by the Norse in a pair of early innings in the contest.
“A lot of things have to work together to make double plays happen,” said Forehand. “The pitcher has to execute the pitch that we’re trying to get and then the guys have to turn it. A lot of things have to go right. But it’s things we talk about and practice and when we execute that it’s a team success.”
The 3-game series concludes on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Dugan Field.
“I’m proud of them but we’ve got to come back tomorrow and get another one,” said Forehand.