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Bisons split doubleheader with USC Upstate
Blake Fonfara
Blake Fonfara

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Coming into the weekend against USC Upstate the Lipscomb baseball team knew how critical each remaining conference game was the rest of the year, especially at home.

After holding on for a 5-4 win in the first game, the Bisons had a great chance to clinch the series against Upstate, but three timely hits with two outs in the top of the ninth by the visitors was enough to give the Spartans a 4-3 win over the Bisons in the nightcap at Ken Dugan Field.

The Bisons and Spartans will wrap up the three-game series tomorrow at Noon from Stephen Lee Marsh Stadium.

Game One: Lipscomb 5, USC Upstate 4

The Bisons got seven, solid innings from Blake Fonfara and got enough hits in edge USC Upstate, 5-4 in the first game of Saturday’s double-header at Dugan Field. The Bisons led 5-2 entering the top of the eighth, but had to squeeze out the tight 5-4 win as the Spartans rallied back in the eighth and ninth innings.

Lipscomb jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Richie Goodenow singled through the right side to score M.L. Williams. Williams led-off the inning with a walk and then stole second before advancing to third on T.J. Hoelzer’s single.

With the Bisons leading 1-0, USC Upstate tied the game up in the third on a one-out solo home run by Tyler Cook. The home run was Cook’s first of the year.

Upstate took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when they manufactured a run on Anthony Vacca fielder’s choice.

Trailing 2-1, the Bisons retook the lead in the fifth with three runs on three hits while sending eight batters to the plate in the inning.  Josh Chism drove in two runs with a one-out single and Tennyson Dodd drove in another to give Lipscomb a 4-2 lead. Lipscomb had a chance to blow the game open in the fifth but stranded the bases loaded to end the inning.

The Bisons had ample opportunities to tack on more runs in the early innings but they stranded seven runners on base through the first five innings.

Blake Fonfara continued to embrace the weekend starting role, scattering eight hits while allowing three runs in seven innings of work. The left-hander struck out six and walked three to earn his second win of the season.

“Blake continues to give us a great chance to win ballgames and today was no different,” head coach Jeff Forehand said. “He did a great job of pitching deep into the game and gave us a great chance to get the win.”

“Since moving him to the starting role, he has given us a great lift as a pitching staff.”

Gil Rehwinkel allowed one run on three hits while walking one in 1.2 innings of relief before handing the ball to Mike Grace who faced one batter with bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth.

Grace came out of the bullpen and did his job in game one, getting Upstate catcher Luke Weber to fly-out to right to leave the tying run 90-feet away and earn the save.

The save for Grace was his first of the season.

The Bisons were once again led by the top of the order as the No. 2-4 hitters went 7-for-12 with 4 RBI and three runs scored. Chism led the team with three hits and two RBI, while Goodenow and Hoelzer each recorded two-hit games.

Goodenow finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored while Hoelzer went 2-for-5 with a run scored.

Game Two:  USC Upstate 4, Lipscomb 3

Connor Sinclair worked six-innings without giving up an earned run but the Spartans recorded three straight two-out hits in the top of the ninth to slip by the Bisons 4-3 in the nightcap at Dugan Field.

“We had some unfortunate things that didn’t go our way in second game and they (Upstate) got the big hits with two outs when they needed too,” Forehand said. “There were two outs in the top of the ninth and they had no one on base. “The chances of them getting three straight two-out hits to score a run there are unlikely, but they did it and give them credit.”

The Spartans (13-25 overall, 7-11 A-Sun) took advantage of a dropped fly-ball in front of the outfield wall by Bison outfielder Ricky Coleman to jump out to an early three-run lead after one inning.

With two outs in the top of the first, Upstate’s Luke Weber hit a ball deep in the left-center gap as the ball hit off of Coleman’s glove, allowing two runners to score. Upstate tacked on their third run of the inning when Dillon Way singled home Weber with sharply hit ball up the middle.

The Bisons (13-23 overall, 4-10 A-Sun) cut into the Spartan lead in the second inning with two runs on four hits to make it a one-run game (3-2). Lipscomb could have added more runs in the inning if it wasn’t for a bizarre base-running mistake led to an out on Coleman’s double to center.

Coleman laced a one-out double off the center-field wall in the second but after the Spartan outfielder air-mailed the throw home to the plate, Coleman over ran teammate Kyle Henry who was standing on third base who contemplating whether to go home.

Following the Bisons miscue, M.L. Williams and T.J. Hoelzer notched RBI-singles to pull the Bisons within one.

Trailing 3-2, Lipscomb would tie the game in the fourth inning as Coleman scored on Goodenow’s sacrifice fly to left.

After allowing three unearned runs in the first, Sinclair settled down on the mound and recorded five straight shutout innings before being pulled in the seventh inning after tossing 109 pitches in the no-decision.

The game remained a 3-3 tie before Upstate recorded three straight two-out hits in the top of the ninth to take a 4-3 lead before the Bisons went three-up and three-down in the bottom of the inning to end the game.

Coleman went 3-for-4 with a run scored to lead the Bisons, while Williams and Hoelzer each collected two hits apiece.

Each team left 11 runners on base in the nightcap.