Thursday, March 8, 2018

Verbeke helps Paladins sweep Penn

Furman junior right-hander Nik Verbeke tossed seven strong innings and won for the third time this season as the Paladins defeated Penn, 4-1, Wednesday at Latham Stadium. The two-game series sweep gives Furman (8-5) wins in five of its last six games.

Verbeke (3-1) allowed one run on six hits in seven innings. He had no walks and six strikeouts. Fellow Spartanburg Methodist alum Tyler Kimbrell worked the final two innings for his first save. Kimbrell allowed no runs, one hit, no walks and three strikeouts. The Paladins used just four pitchers in the midweek series and they combined for 17 strikeouts and five walks.

"That's the best Nik has pitched in a Furman uniform. He just looked so confident and relaxed out there," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "He got a lot of weak contact on 2-0 and 3-0 counts, so even when he was behind his fastball had late movement on it to get poor swings. As much as you preach pitching ahead, obviously sometimes you do fall behind and it's a lot better to see that kind of contact rather than balls flying over the trees."

For the second day in a row, Ben Anderson led off the game with a hit and came around to score to give Furman an early lead. On Wednesday, Anderson doubled and scored on Jake Crawford's single.

With two outs and nobody on in the fifth, the Paladins got consecutive singles by Bret Huebner, Anderson, Sims Griffith and Crawford to push the lead to 3-0.

After being picked off of third base in the second inning, Jabari Richards made up for it in a big way the rest of the game. In the third inning, Furman's junior leftfielder threw out a Penn runner at home. In the sixth, Richards belted his second home run of the season the opposite way.

Anderson and Crawford each went 3-for-4 to lead the Paladins' 13-hit effort. Anderson is batting .541 during his current six-game hitting streak. The freshman has also scored 11 runs over that span.

"Ben Anderson just continues to set the tone. Out of a freshman, that's incredible to see," Harker said. "I feel like the boys are just learning what it takes to win on a consistent basis.
"In order to get to the next level, we've got to learn how to win midweek games, whether it's at South Carolina or two midweeks at home. We've checked off two of those now. I'm pretty sure we hadn't won (both games of) a Tuesday-Wednesday midweek in my four years here. That tells you we're getting the arms in here to do that, but we're also getting that confidence from learning how to win those games."

Brendan Bean went 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead the Quakers (1-7).

Furman will be back in action this weekend with a pair of games at its downtown Greenville home of Fluor Field. The Paladins will face Michigan State at 6 p.m. Friday and Illinois at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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