Crusaders Fall to Newberry in 2016 Season Opener

Crusaders Fall to Newberry in 2016 Season Opener

Written by Brian Rushing

The Belmont Abbey baseball team began its 2016 season with a 4-3 loss to the Newberry Wolves.  The season opening loss for the Crusaders sends them to 0-1 on the schedule, as Newberry starts the year winners of four straight.  The two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday to wrap up the series.

After the Crusaders were held scoreless in the first, Newberry took advantage of an errant throw that plated two runs on a RBI fielders choice from Derek Olenchuk, fueling a three-run first inning.  Jeff Sneed continued the rally with a bloop single to left, scoring Olenchuk to give eventual winning pitcher Daniel Nations(1-0) an early lead. 

In the third, the Wolves would extend their lead as Olenchuk hit a drive off the top of the center field fence to score Michael Gonzalez, who was hit by a pitch with two outs in the frame.

The Crusaders got on the board in the fourth as Nick Nunziato drilled a solo homer beyond the center field wall for the team's first clout of the season.  Thomas Yoder followed with a ringing one-out double to right center that gave the Crusaders a chance to challenge the Wolves' early advantage. With two out, Josh Genthe drew a walk from Nations.  The free pass would set the stage for Connor Kwalwasser, as the senior center fielder delivered a single to center, scoring Thomas Yoder to cut the lead in half.  Kwalwasser led all batters with three hits.

Tyler Byrnes would be relieved by Brady Hill in the sixth after tossing five and two third innings while surrendering two earned runs.  Byrnes struck out seven in the tough loss, allowing just three hits.

Hill, Sam Luchansky and Robert Taft would prove a formidable trio, allowing just one baserunner in the remaining two and a third. Hill especially impressed, hurling four punchouts in the five batters he faced.

The Abbey would tack on another run in the seventh to trim the lead to 4-3. With Mike DeLee pitching in relief of Nations, Josh Genthe roped a ball toward the corner in right for a leadoff double. Kwalwasser would continue the rally with an RBI double to right.  A sacrifice bunt to the right side by Matt McGarry gave the Crusaders an opportunity to even the game, as Kwalwasser advanced to third. The Abbey, however, was unable to continue the threat, as two of the inning's final three struck out.

DeLee closed the game out for Newberry, though not without Kwalwasser making things tense for the fans that came to the Wolves home opener.  After a Genthe groundout, Kwalwasser would wrap his third hit of the day to left field.  After stealing second, Kwalwasser would find himself advancing on a walk and passed ball to Lorenzo Wright with two out.  DeLee would record the save, striking out Kayden Krause to end the game.

Paced by Kwalwasser's three-hit effort, the Crusaders outhit the Wolves in the contest, with Nunziato, Genthe and Yoder reaching safely as well.

Tomorrow, the Crusaders will open their home schedule in the final two contests against the Wolves.  Harry Ferguson is expected to get the start in the opener that begins at noon. You can follow the action on the Belmont Abbey Sports Network beginning at 11:45 am by going to www.basn.wgnc.net.  The first game will be a seven-inning contest, with the finale of the weekend series being a nine-inning affair.