Sunday, February 18, 2018

Costa belts walk-off homer as Furman sweeps

Teammates prepare to greet Jason Costa at home plate after Costa's walk-off
homer in Furman's 7-6 win over Marist Sunday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
In a tie game with one out in the bottom of the 10th, Jason Costa blasted a home run over the right-centerfield wall to lift Furman to a 7-6 walk-off win over Marist Sunday afternoon at Latham Stadium.

Costa's second homer of the season wrapped up the season-opening sweep for the Paladins (3-0) over the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions. It also gave Furman back-to-back wins in one-run games, which the Paladins went 6-9 in last season.

"I was just trying to put a good swing on it and not do too much," Costa said. "The first two pitches were balls so 2-0, I figured he was going to have to come at me. It was a high and outside fastball and I just went with it. I wasn't sure if it was going out at first, but luckily it did."

The 390-foot blast made a winner of reliever Tyler Kimbrell (1-0), who allowed three hits and no walks in two scoreless innings. He had three strikeouts. Marist's Tony Romanelli (0-1), who was brilliant for four scoreless innings prior to Costa's homer, took the loss.

Furman trailed 4-3 through five-and-a-half innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Costa was hit by a pitch and Brandon Elmy doubled before Jake Crawford ripped the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence. Crawford's three-run shot gave the Paladins a 6-4 lead and chased Marist starter Conor McNamara.

Marist's Frankie Gregoire hit a two-run single in the seventh to tie the game. The Red Foxes (0-3) threatened for more as they loaded the bases. Furman reliever John Michael Bertrand got a grounder to short for a 6-4-3 double play to escape with no further damage. Trent Alley worked a 1-2-3 eighth before Kimbrell came on for the final two innings.

Kimbrell somehow got out of the 10th unscathed after it began with a double and a bunt infield single for Marist. The Red Foxes tried to take the lead on a safety squeeze, but Brandon Elmy fielded the bunt and threw home where Marist's Greg Kocinski was ruled out on a swipe tag by Furman catcher Logan Taplett. Kimbrell struck out the next two batters, setting the stage for Costa's heroics in the bottom of the inning.

"That was a fun game. Not exactly how you draw it up there in the top of the 10th. A lot of times it might not go your way right there, but that's what's so fun about sports. You just don't know what's going to happen," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "Then Jason comes up and that's a really tough place to hit the ball out, especially for a right-hander. That shows the kind of power he has.
"That was really fun for our guys and obviously a huge weekend for our program."

Crawford went 4-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs to lead the Paladins. Logan Taplett was 3-of-4 and Elmy had a pair of hits also for Furman.

True freshman Matt Lazzaro allowed four runs, one earned, on five hits in five innings for Furman. The left-hander had one walk and four strikeouts.

"Anytime a freshman goes out there and goes five innings with one earned - and didn't really have his best stuff, I think that's pretty good," Harker said. "He got his feet wet a little bit ... and I thought he handled the pressure well."

Kocinski went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, two runs and two RBIs to lead Marist.

Furman next plays at Clemson Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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