JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After riding high with a four-run ninth inning to even the game, the Lipscomb baseball team found heartbreak in the bottom of the frame when a two-out wild pitch allowed the Jacksonville Dolphins to walk-off with a 6-5 victory in series opener Thursday night at Sessions Stadium in ASUN Conference action.
The Bisons entered the final stanza down 5-1, but they never gave up. Michael Gigliotti drew a leadoff walk to get things rolling before Lee Solomon doubled to the wall in left. Two batters later, Zeke Dodson hit an infield single, allowing Gigliotti to score.
After a passed ball allowed the runners to move up 90 feet, the hot-hitting Hunter Hanks single through the left side to bring home Solomon and cut the deficit to two. Facing a full-count with two outs, Von Watson drove a ball past the diving second baseman and into the right center field gap for a double. The ball rolled deep enough into the gap that not only did Dodson score from third, but Hanks came all the way around from first to level the contest at 5-5, sending the Bisons bench into an eruption.
“I feel like scoring those runs in the ninth inning was a big point in our season, “Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “We failed to score more when we had the chances earlier in the game, but for the guys to continue to battle and not give up when they were down to their final three outs was big. That shows what this team is made of and I couldn’t be more proud.
“Then in the bottom of the inning we threw a perfect pitch and 99.9 percent of the time we block it, but that just happened to be the one time it got away, but that is the game of baseball and the reason we love it so much.”
After Jacksonville’s first two batters in the home half of the ninth reached base, senior reliever Denton Norman worked around the damage and needed just one more out to send the game into extras. With a 2-2 count, Norman threw a breaking ball into the dirt that got JU’s Evan Fernandez fishing, but the ball got away and bounced to the backstop, allowing Nathan Koslowkski to score from third for the game-winning tally.
Norman (3-3) was tagged with the loss after giving up one run on one hit and striking out two.
Prior to the ninth-inning drama, the battle between the Bisons and the ASUN-leading Dolphins turned into an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel between Jeffrey Passantino and JU’s Chris Gau.
Passantino surrendered two first-inning runs and then shut the Dolphins out over the next six innings while allowing only two base runners. He scattered seven hits over seven innings and struck out five in the no-decision effort.
“Jeff gives up two runs early then blanks them the next six innings, I don’t know what else we could ask for,” Forehand said. “He was on short rest, but I was proud of the way he threw. He gives us that effort every week he goes out.”
Gau stymied the Bisons for the first eight frames before running into trouble in the ninth where he did not record an out before being lifted. He closed the night with eight innings of work and allowed three runs on five hits. He struck out seven and walked one.
Spencer Stockton entered in relief and lucked into the win, his team-leading fifth of the season, after surrendering two runs on three hits.
The loss moved Lipscomb’s record to 17-15 overall and 3-4 in league play, while Jacksonville improved to 20-16 and 6-1. The victory was the eighth in a row for JU.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Lipscomb falls to 18-15 all-time against Jacksonville under Coach Forehand. The Bisons had won the previous two meetings.
- Entering the game, Passantino had given up just one run all season in the opening stanza – a single tally against UNF last weekend.
- The no-decision effort was the seventh of the season for Passantino.
- Hanks and Gigliotti extended their on-base streak to eight games.
- Solomon, Hanks and Watson led the Bisons at the plate with 2-for-4 performances.
- Hanks now has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games, including multiple hits in four straight.
- With his two-bagger in the ninth, Solomon now has a team high 10 this season.
- Watson’s game-tying double was his fourth of the year. It was his first multi-hit and multi-RBI performance since going 3-for-4 with four RBI against Illinois State on March 18.
- Dodson picked up his 22nd RBI of the season after going 1-for-4.
- Lipscomb only drew one walk at the plate, Gigliotti’s lead-off free pass to start the ninth-inning rally. He has 30 walks on the season.
- The Bisons left three men on base, compared to seven for JU.
- John Pryor and Nicko Ortega made relief appearances, combining to throw the eighth inning. Pryor got two outs and gave up three runs on two hits and a walk. Ortega allowed one hit and one walk.
Game two of the Easter weekend series is set for 6 p.m. Friday night. Dayton Tripp (3-2, 6.54 ERA) will toe the rubber for Lipscomb. He will face off with the 2015 ASUN Pitcher of the Year in Michael Baumann (1-3, 3.25 ERA).