Southern Wesleyan escaped a bases loaded jam with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning with back-to-back strikeouts to stall the Crusaders momentum and hold on for a 4-2 Conference Carolinas baseball victory this afternoon at Abbey Yard. The Warriors improve to 4-8 overall and 1-3 in league play, while the Crusaders drop to 9-4 overall and 6-1 in Conference Carolinas.
The series will conclude with a Saturday doubleheader beginning at noon.
The Warriors, which clubbed ten hits, struck first in the top of the first as they scored two runs on RBI singles from Johnny Ponder and Julio Lara.
Belmont Abbey wasted no time getting the runs back, as Weston Clarke smacked a two RBI single in the bottom of the inning, chasing home Ryan Allen and Lorenzo Wright. Both Wright and Allen led off the inning with walks.
The score remained a 2-2 stalemate until the the fifth when the Warriors took the lead for good on Lara's single back up the box that scored Drew Carson. SWU tacked on an insurance run in the seventh on Josh Shimp's solo homer, a shot to dead center that increased the Warriors lead to 4-2.
Belmont Abbey had chances to chip into the Warriors lead, starting in the sixth when the Crusaders put runners on second and third with one out after singles by Colin Rosenbaum and Conor Kwalwasser. Both men moved into scoring position on a passed ball, but a pair of groundouts ended the inning.
The best chance, however, came in the bottom of the ninth when the Abbey loaded the bases with one out.
The frame began with back-to-back singles by Anthony Dimino and Armen Calilao. Nick Nunziato then missed a walk-off three run homer by no more than five feet as he flied out to the warning track in left.
Clarke loaded the bases when his grounder to second was bobbled and he beat the throw by a step to keep the inning alive, but Jordan Finster locked down his second save as he ended the game with two strikeouts-both looking-to end the game.
Southern Wesleyan starter Matt Buss moved his record to 1-2 as he gave up two runs on three hits in five innings, striking out three and walking five. Andrew Howard held the lead as he pitched three scoreless innings, scattering three hits but walking a pair before making way for Finster to start the ninth. Finster allowed two hits-both on Dimino and Calilao's singles-but no runs as he struck out two.
Crusaders starter Harry Ferguson fell to 4-1 in the loss as he gave up four runs on nine hits in six and one-thirds innings, striking out three and walking three.
Belmont Abbey recorded eight hits, seven of which were singles with Wright's double the lone exception. Dimino and Kwalwasser each had two hits and Clarke totaled two RBIs, but the Crusaders left 15 men on base, including six in the final three innings.