HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – With a 6-3 series-opening triumph over Northern Kentucky Thursday afternoon at the Bill Aker Complex, Lipscomb baseball head coach Jeff Forehand collected his 450th career victory.
“I think the number of wins just lets you know you are getting a little older,” Forehand said with a grin. “Even though we had a few opportunities to score a little more than we did, I thought we played a great game. We had guys on base and they were able to get things going for us. That is what I like to see.”
The Bisons have now won nine straight road games. Their last loss came in Jacksonville on April 4. It is also the seventh straight road win in conference play.
The win also gives Lipscomb its 33rd victory of the season, tying the school’s NCAA mark for wins in a season.
The Bisons (33-18, 11-8 A-Sun) wasted little time in jumping on the scoreboard, plating a run in the top of the first. Freshman speedster Michael Gigliotti dropped down his 20th bunt single of the season on the game’s first pitch before moving into scoring position with a stolen base. Senior shortstop Grant Massey then traded places with the newcomer on a RBI-double down the right field line to give Lipscomb an early 1-0 lead.
The Purple and Gold struck again an inning later when redshirt junior Adam Lee hit a two-out infield single to second base. Senior Mike Korte, who reached on a leadoff walk, crossed the plate to push Lipscomb’s lead to 2-0.
Northern Kentucky (17-32, 5-14 A-Sun) got on the board in the bottom half of the frame as first baseman Trey Ganns touched Lipscomb starter Ian Martinez-McGraw for a leadoff home run.
After the Norse drew even at 2-2 in the bottom of the third on a bases-loaded wild pitch, freshman Jeffrey Crisan quickly put the Bisons back on top in the fourth when he launched his first-career home run to left centerfield.
Lipscomb added an insurance tally in the seventh on a sacrifice fly from Adam Lee before Korte followed suit in the eighth to push the lead to 5-2.
Senior Jonathan Allison tacked on Lipscomb's final run of the day in the ninth when he fouled out to left field, but it was deep enough to allow Adam Lee to score from third. The RBI was Allison's 45th of the season.
NKU tried to make things interesting in the ninth by loading the bases with no outs against senior Nick Andros. The Norse then got an infield single to bring the game-winning run to the plate. Playing for the matchup, Forehand went to Jaesung Hwang out of the pen and the moved paid off as his struck out both batters he faced to pick up his first save of the season.
“We hoped not to have to go to J in that situation,” Forehand said. “Nick pitched great. He just gave up a couple of seeing-eye singles. When you are up four runs, we want to try and challenge the batter. He pitched well, but we liked the matchup with J to close it out.”
Martinez-McGraw (7-3) picked up his seventh win of the season after tossing 6.0 innings. The senior allowed just one earned run on two hits. He struck out four and walked two while lowering his ERA to 2.39 on the year.
With the win Martinez-McGraw now has 16 victories for his career to move into a tie with Rex Brothers for the second-most career wins in Lipscomb’s NCAA era.
Gigliotti led the Bisons at the dish going 4-for-5 with a double and three stolen bases. He now has four games this season with four hits and eight contests with at least three base knocks.
“Gigs is our table setter,” Forehand said. “When he is able to do what he did today we are tough to beat. Coach (Brad) Coon and Coach (Paul) Phillips has done a tremendous job with him this year because there are some many things that go on under the hood that most people don’t recognize. They have helped him become a complete player.”
Around the Horn:
- The Bisons stole seven bases in the win. That is the second most in a game in Lipscomb's NCAA era, tying the mark set on March 20, 2003 against Wisconsin-Stevens. The record is eight.
- Lipscomb outhit NKU 11-6. Four Bisons tallied multiple hits on the day (Gigliotti, A. Lee, Massey, Crisan).
- Gigliotti swiped his 15th, 16th and 17th stolen bases of the season. He also extended his on-base streak to 24 games.
- Adam Lee knocked in a game-high two RBI.
- Massey’s first-inning double was his 10th on the year.
- Freshman Lee Solomon swiped his first career stolen base in the 8th after entering as a pinch hitter.
The Bisons and Norse will continue their series at Bill Akers Complex on Friday at noon. Freshman Jeffrey Passantino (3-1, 2.29 ERA) will get the nod on the hill for the Purple and Gold and will be looking to continue his 18.1 consecutive-scoreless innings streak.
“Everybody in our league is good and anybody can beat anybody,” Forehand said. “All we can do is take care of our business. We just have to come out tomorrow and continue to play our game and everything else will take care of itself.”