Friday, March 16, 2018

Paladins hammer Harvard in series opener

Furman's baseball game Friday wasn't exactly beautiful and it lasted longer than some relationships I've had, but the Paladins will always take a lopsided win. In a game that went over three-and-a-half hours, Furman overcame 10 walks in a 16-3 win over Harvard in the opener of a three-day, four-game series at Latham Stadium.

"That's what it's like to be a cricket coach I think. They say those last three and four days long." Furman coach Brett Harker said. "That's the least we've commanded the strike zone all year and that's very frustrating. But at the end of the day, that's a good team and we put up a ton of runs."

Ben Anderson kicked off his big night leading off the bottom of the first. The freshman hammered an 0-2 pitch that sliced into a stiff wind and escaped over the centerfield wall for the first home run of his career. The Paladins loaded the bases, but got no more in the first. Anderson made it 3-0 an inning later when he sent an 0-2 pitch up the middle for a two-run single. He later came around to score on a groundball by Jason Costa.

From that point on, Harvard starter Noah Zavolas settled in and shut out Furman over the next four innings. Zavolas (1-1) scattered 10 hits over his six innings of work, walked two and struck out eight.

Meanwhile, Furman starter Trent Alley cruised through four shutout innings and took a streak of five consecutive strikeouts into the fifth. But as it has in the past, the fifth inning proved to be a bit of a challenge for Alley. With two out and nobody on, Harvard's Ben Skinner doubled, Devan Peterson walked and Patrick McColl hit a three-run home run to cut the lead to one. Alley (2-0) then got a groundout to end the inning and his pitching night.

"For the most part, Trent Alley was very good. That's the best his changeup has been," Harker said. "He's frustrated by (not going longer), but that's a good sign that he's not happy with that outing.
"I think it was a big mental block to get there (through five innings) because he didn't last week. He needed to prove to himself that he could get that out. That kid will hit a hurdle, figure out how to cross it and get a little better. I think you'll be able to see him work into the sixth and maybe even the seventh now that he got past that hurdle."

Heath Hawkins made his 2018 debut in relief of Alley to start the sixth. Hawkins, whose been perhaps Furman's biggest key reliever the past couple of years, worked two scoreless, hitless innings. In his first game back from an arm problem that he's dealt with since the preseason, Hawkins overcame four walks.

"The biggest positive of the night is that Heath Hawkins is back. Was he at his best? No, but he put up two big zeros for us," Harker said. "We're really excited that he's healthy and got his feet wet."

After Hawkins protected the one-run lead for two innings, Furman took command with a five-run seventh. Jake Crawford homered on the first pitch of the inning. Later, Bret Huebner had a two-run double, Jabari Richards hit an RBI-triple and Anderson capped the inning with an RBI-double.

The Paladins (11-6) removed any doubt with a seven-run eighth in which 12 Paladins batted. The big blows came on Brandon Elmy's two-run triple - the first of his career - and Logan Taplett's two-run double.

Anderson went 4-for-5 with two runs and five RBIs to lead the Paladins, while Huebner was 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBIs. Furman racked up a total of 17 hits and drew seven walks.

"Everybody was sitting there saying 'that ball's gone,' and I was going 'not today,' but sure enough he rode it out of here," Harker said of Anderson's leadoff homer. "The kid's really good and he seems to play exceptionally well at home."

No one had more than one hit for the Crimson (6-9), who totaled five as a team.

The teams will play the second and third games of the series Friday with a pair of seven-inning games. The doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

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