Sunday, April 29, 2018

Beatson helps Paladins take series over Citadel

Furman freshman Jordan Beatson pitched six scoreless innings in the
Paladins' 6-1 win at The Citadel Sunday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Making just his second start of the season, Furman freshman pitcher Jordan Beatson tossed six scoreless innings as Furman downed rival The Citadel 6-1 Sunday afternoon in Charleston. After an atrocious day of defense on Saturday, the Paladins came back with an error-less game Sunday in clinching the series. It marks Furman's eighth win in the last nine games against the Bulldogs.

With three weekend series left in the Southern Conference regular season, the Paladins (21-23, 6-9) have a two-game lead over Citadel (15-27, 4-11) and are two games back of sixth-place ETSU.

In a series in which the teams combined for 15 errors, the Bulldogs accounted for all four on Sunday. Furman took advantage of three in the first two innings, scoring three unearned runs. The Paladins lead extended to 4-0 in the fourth on an RBI-triple by Ben Anderson. The freshman is now tied for Furman's single-season record for triples with six.

Brandon Elmy added an RBI-double in the sixth and Jake Crawford pushed the lead to 6-0 when he led off the seventh with his fifth home run.

Beatson (2-2) blanked Citadel for six innings, allowing just two hits over his 72-pitch performance. The former Dutch Fork High standout had three walks and three strikeouts. Opponents are batting just .221 against Beatson this season, which is far and away the lowest average allowed on the team.

After missing Saturday's doubleheader due to injury, Sims Griffith returned to the lineup and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored to lead Furman. Crawford also had two hits while Anderson finished with two RBIs.

Taylor Cothran had two of the Bulldogs' five hits and knocked in their only run.

Still in the middle of exams, the Paladins will not have a midweek game this week. Furman returns to action next Friday at home when it opens a three-game series against Western Carolina. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Furman, Citadel split doubleheader

After blowing a lead in the ninth to force extra innings at rival The Citadel on Saturday, Furman bounced back in a big way and claimed an 11-5 win in the first game of a doubleheader. With the assistance of Paladin miscues in the field, the Bulldogs came back with a 6-1 win in game two.

The doubleheader split leaves Furman (20-23, 5-9 Southern Conference) a game in front of Citadel (15-26, 4-10) for seventh place in the SoCon. The rubber game of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.

Game 1
Furman 11, Citadel 5, 10 inn.
Furman took an early 3-0 lead in Saturday's opener before Citadel came back with three unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game. The Bulldogs had two on with two out in the fifth when Grant Schuermann came on in relief of Furman starter Nik Verbeke. Schuermann got a strikeout to keep the score tied 3-3.

In the sixth, the Paladins scored a pair of unearned runs to take a 5-3 lead. Schuermann then got inning-ending double plays in the sixth, seventh and eighth as Furman clung to the two-run lead. Citadel's ninth-place hitter Chris Martin, who was batting .189 entering Saturday, delivered a two-single in the ninth to tie the game. Schuermann induced yet another inning-ending double play to force extra innings.

The Paladins responded with a six-run 10th inning in which 10 batters came to the plate. Ben Anderson's bases-loaded walk snapped the tie before Brandon Elmy delivered a two-run single with two outs. Jabari Richards capped the inning with a three-run triple.

Elmy and Jason Costa, who belted his seventh home run early Saturday, had three hits apiece to lead Furman's 15-hit attack.

Game 2
Citadel 6, Furman 1
In the nightcap, the Paladins committed four of their five errors over the first three innings. That helped Citadel take an early 5-0 lead and the Bulldogs got a complete game effort out of starter Thomas Byelick.

Byelick, who entered Saturday with an ERA of 5.26, allowed just one unearned run on Saturday to earn his first win of the season. Byelick (1-6) allowed six hits and six walks as Furman stranded 11 base runners. Byelick had seven strikeouts in the 141-pitch effort.

Furman starter John Michael Bertrand also worked a complete game as he scattered nine hits over eight innings. Of the six runs Bertrand (4-2) allowed, only two were earned. He had three walks and two strikeouts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Paladins raise over $18,000 for Vs. Cancer

Furman baseball players and coach get their heads shaved Tuesday night
as part of the team's effort to raise funds to fight childhood cancer.
After the conclusion of Tuesday's game at Fluor Field, Furman baseball players and coaches went to their dugout roof for their annual head shaving. The Paladins get their heads shaved each year as part of their efforts to raise funds to help fight childhood cancer.

Over the last several years, Furman has ranked near the top among baseball programs throughout the country who participate in the Vs. Cancer fundraising campaign of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the world's largest nonprofit dedicated to fighting the deadliest childhood cancer.

This year is no different. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Paladins have soared past their goal of $15,000. Furman currently ranks No. 1 in the country with $18,386 raised. Over the years, the Paladins have collected more than $160,000 for Vs. Cancer.

Half of all proceeds go to programs for children with cancer in the Greenville community and half are invested in finding a cure for pediatric brain tumors, which afflict over 28,000 children in the U.S.

A loss to South Carolina after a lengthy rain delay Tuesday didn't sour the mood of the crowd who stuck around afterwards. Smiles and cheers came from the parents and fans who watched team members get their heads shaved by stylists from Great Clips and Paul Mitchell The School.

If you'd like to contribute to Furman's fundraising efforts, click here.

South Carolina pulls away from Paladins

South Carolina scored in six different innings Tuesday, including four times in the eighth, to pull away for a 10-2 win over Furman at Fluor Field. The result makes for a split in the season series as the Paladins won in Columbia earlier this season.

Junior third baseman Jake Crawford, who's been a key member of Furman's bullpen in April, got the start Tuesday. He tossed four solid innings, but the Paladins trailed 2-0 going to the bottom of the fourth.

Ben Anderson became Furman's first baserunner of the night when he led off the fourth with a walk. With one out, Brandon Elmy swung down and golfed a single the opposite way for the Paladins' first hit and Anderson came home to cut the lead to 2-1. Jabari Richards hit a run-scoring double off the Green Monster with two outs to tie the game.

The 25th-ranked Gamecocks (24-17) responded with runs in each of the next four innings. After Furman's Trent Alley retired the first two batters in the top of the fifth, USC had a single, stolen base and double to take the lead for good.

Jonah Bride had four hits and Carlos Cortes had four RBIs to lead the Gamecocks. USC's Carmen Mlodzinski (2-4) gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings for the win. He had three walks and seven strikeouts.

Elmy led Furman with two of the Paladins' five hits.

Furman (19-22) returns to action this weekend with a Southern Conference series at rival The Citadel. The three-game series begins Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Paladins pile up 22 hits to thump VMI

Bret Huebner had four hits in Furman's 19-1 win at VMI
in seven innings Sunday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
In a series full of crooked numbers on the scoreboard, it was Furman's turn on Sunday. Every starter had at least two hits as the Paladins crushed VMI 19-1 in seven innings to salvage the final game of the series in Lexington, Va. Furman improves to 3-1 all-time in "run rule" games, in which Southern Conference series finales can end when there's a 10-run lead in a game through seven innings.

Furman (19-21, 4-8) scored all of its run in just three innings. After VMI had an eight-run inning on Friday and a nine-run frame on Saturday, it was the Paladins who broke the game open Sunday with a nine-run second.

Furman opened the scoring with a double steal as Jake Crawford swiped home. After an RBI-single by Bret Huebner and a run-scoring bunt single for Ben Anderson, Brandon Elmy and Landon Kay had back-to-back walks with the bases loaded to make it 5-0. Crawford then had the big blow of the inning with a bases-clearing double. Crawford later scored on an error to cap the nine-run inning in which the Paladins sent 13 batters to the plate.

An inning later, Jason Costa and Jabari Richards each slugged three-run home runs to push Furman's lead to 15-1. The Paladins closed out the scoring with a four-run fifth, highlighted by Elmy's two-run double.

Making his first weekend start, Furman freshman John Michael Bertrand allowed one run on six hits in five innings for the win. Bertrand (4-1) had one walk and two strikeouts.

Huebner finished with four hits to lead the Paladins' season-high barrage of 22 hits. Logan Taplett added three hits while every other Furman starter each had two. Costa, Elmy, Crawford and Richards each finished with three RBIs.

Nathan Eaton went 2-for-3 to lead VMI (21-18, 9-6), which had its seven-game winning streak snapped.

The Paladins return to action Tuesday night at Fluor Field as they host South Carolina at 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

VMI's eight-run sixth sinks Paladins

Brandon Elmy hit a pair of two-run home runs Saturday, but
Furman lost at VMI 13-7. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Furman appeared to be righting the ship with a four-run lead in the fifth inning Saturday at VMI, but another middle-inning collapse sunk the Paladins. The Keydets scored eight runs in the fifth inning and four more in the sixth to rally for a 13-7 win, clinching the series victory.

The Paladins (18-21, 3-8 Southern Conference) have lost four of their last five games and allowed 55 runs over that stretch. Saturday's loss came less than 24 hours after VMI (21-17, 9-5) used a nine-run sixth inning to cruise to a 12-1 win in the opening game of the series.

Making his first collegiate start, Furman freshman Jordan Beatson pitched well through the first four innings allowing one run on just two hits. Meanwhile, Brandon Elmy hit a two-run home run in the first and another two-run shot in the fifth to stake the Paladins to a 5-1 lead.

It all fell apart for Furman quickly in the bottom of the fifth. The first five Keydets reached, including home runs by Peyton Maddox and Nathan Eaton. Eaton's three-run shot gave VMI a 6-5 lead and chased Beatson. Heath Hawkins retired the first two batters he faced before the next four reached, highlighted by Matt Dunlevy's three-run homer.

RBI-singles by Bret Huebner and Jason Costa helped Furman cut the lead to 9-7 in the sixth, but VMI answered with four runs in the bottom half. Eaton had a two-run homer and Dunlevy a two-run double to account for the Keydets' runs in the sixth.

That was it for the scoring as Furman left the bases loaded in the seventh and stranded two runners in the eighth.

Huebner went 3-for-4, while Elmy finished with four RBIs, to lead the Paladins. In addition to driving in five runs like Eaton, Dunlevy also had four hits for VMI.

The series wraps up Sunday at 1 p.m.

Friday, April 20, 2018

VMI rolls over Paladins in series opener

After beating two of the best pitchers in the Southern Conference each of the previous two Fridays in Mercer's Robert Broom and Wofford's Adam Scott, Furman couldn't scratch against VMI's Josh Widner Friday in Lexington, Va. Widner fired 7 1/3 shutout innings as the Keydets won 12-1 in the opener of a three-game series.

Widner entered Friday with an ERA of 5.68 this season and opposing batters were hitting .309 against him. But Furman (18-20, 3-7) didn't get its first hit until Landon Kay's one-out double in the fifth. Ben Anderson's one-out double an inning later accounted for the Paladins' lone other hit. Widner (3-4) had three walks and six strikeouts.

Furman starter Nik Verbeke (4-3) matched Widner for the first three innings before VMI got on the board in the fourth. During a stretch of five Keydets batters, four had singles to give VMI a 2-0 lead.

In winning its sixth consecutive game, VMI (20-17, 8-5) turned a tight contest into a blowout in in the sixth. The Keydets sent 14 batters to the plate and nine of them came around to score, highlighted by Peyton Maddox's two-run home run.

Every VMI starter had at least one hit as the Keydets piled up 15. No. 9 batter Callen Nuccio went 3-for-5 to lead the way. VMI played error-free defensively, while Furman committed four errors.

Game two is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Paladins outslug Gardner-Webb

Logan Taplett had three hits and three RBIs to help Furman defeat
Gardner-Webb 15-12 Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
After getting shut out at Gardner-Webb last April, Furman came back with a 27-10 home win over the Runnin' Bulldogs last May. On Wednesday night at Gardner-Webb, the Paladins picked up where they left off in May. All nine Furman starters had at least one hit, eight had at least one run, and seven had at least one RBI as the Paladins held on for a 15-12 win.

Furman (18-19) took a 3-0 lead in the second when the bottom half of the lineup started a two-out rally. Bret Huebner had an RBI-single and Sims Griffith followed with a two-run single. Gardner-Webb (21-18) answered in the bottom half sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring six runs.

The Paladins trailed 8-4 before scoring three runs in the fifth. Logan Taplett provided the big hit with a two-run single.

An inning later, Furman put up its biggest number of the night. Jared Mihalik's two-run double gave the Paladins a 9-8 lead. One out later, Brandon Elmy had an RBI-single which was followed by a Landon Kay RBI-single, a Taplett RBI-double, a Huebner RBI-single. Taplett scored on a wild pitch to cap the seven-run inning staking the Paladins to a 14-8 lead.

The Paladins didn't get to enjoy their cushy lead for long. The Bulldogs opened the bottom of the sixth with three consecutive singles, followed by back-to-back doubles to cut the lead to 14-12. Furman reliever Heath Hawkins got a pair of groundouts and a foul pop to get out of the inning with a two-run lead.

Hawkins worked around a one-out walk in the seventh by striking out the side. Tyler Kimbrell came on and allowed just one single and no walks over the final two innings for his fifth save. Kimbrell had three strikeouts. Austin Wood (1-0) gave up two runs on three hits in 3 2/3 innings of relief to collect his first collegiate win. Wood had two walks and three strikeouts.

Taplett went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, while Huebner also had three hits to lead Furman's season-high 18-hit performance. Taplett is 9-for-16 over his last four games to raise his season average to .292. The teams combined for 31 hits with no home runs.

Next up for Furman is a road trip to VMI. The opener of the three-game series is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Terriers sweep doubleheader, take series

Furman's Ben Anderson went 6-for-8 Saturday, but the Paladins were
swept by Wofford in a doubleheader. Photo courtesy of Furman.
A day after its best defensive performance of the season, Furman committed five errors Saturday as Wofford swept a doubleheader at Latham Stadium. After defeating Terrier ace Adam Scott on Friday, the Paladins were seeking a second consecutive Southern Conference series win. But Wofford belted five home runs Saturday to record 13-5 and 5-2 wins.

Furman falls to 17-19 overall and 3-6 in the SoCon, while the Terriers improve to 25-12 and 6-3 in the league.

Game 1
Wofford 13, Furman 5
Wofford scored five runs over the first two innings and six over the final two to cruise to the win in Saturday's opener.

It was quickly evident that any momentum from Friday's big, emotional win did not carry over to Saturday. The Terriers took a 3-0 lead in the first on a two-run home run by Mack Nathanson and a solo shot by Brett Rodriguez. Wofford had just one infield single in the second, but took advantage of a fielding error, throwing error, passed ball and catcher's interference to make it 5-0.

Furman got back in it in the bottom of the second when Ben Anderson delivered a bases-clearing, two-out double to cut the lead to 5-3. The loudest ovation of game one came in the bottom of the fifth when Jake Crawford hammered a home run that hit the Ingles' target on the left-field hill. That gave everyone in attendance a free sub sandwich from Ingles and brought the Paladins to within two at 6-4.

Just as it did in the third, Wofford answered a Furman score with a score of its own the next inning. That happened after each of the Paladins' three scoring innings. After Furman cut the lead to 7-4 in the seventh, Wofford responded with a three-run eighth.

After a single and a hit by pitch to start the eighth, Wofford leadoff man Colin Davis couldn't get a sac bunt down. Instead, he hammered a 2-2 pitch to centerfield for a three-run homer that spoiled what was a great relief outing by Jordan Beatson.

After coming on in relief of starter Grant Schuermann (2-6) with a man on and nobody out in the third, Beatson allowed one run on two hits in five innings of relief before the eighth-inning trouble. Schuermann left as a precaution after experiencing tightness in his left shoulder.

Davis finished with five RBIs to lead the Terriers. Austin Higginbotham (4-2) allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings for the win. Matt Ellmyer gave up just one unearned run on one hit over the final three innings for his third save.

Anderson went 4-for-5 to lead the Paladins.

Game 2
Wofford 5, Furman 2
Furman got five hits and drew three walks off Wofford starter Grant Byers in less than five innings, but only had two runs to show for it. Reliever Jake Hershman mowed the Paladins down the rest of the way as Wofford rallied to win game two.

Anderson smacked Byers' first pitch of the day off the wall in left-center field for his fifth triple, one shy of the Furman season record. Anderson scored on Jason Costa's groundout and one out later, Brandon Elmy hit his fifth home run of the season and 23rd of his career to stake the Paladins to a 2-0 lead.

Furman got two walks in the second and a walk and a single to start the third, but double plays in both innings helped keep the Paladins off the board.

Nathanson crushed the first pitch of the fourth inning to cut the lead in half. Wofford then took advantage of a Furman error that extended the inning and Lawson's RBI-single tied the game. Furman starter Matt Lazzaro's got a strikeout to get out of the inning, but that was it for him. Lazzaro left after 63 pitches as a precaution because of elbow tightness.

Heath Hawkins came in an tossed three effective innings of relief. His only mistake came when Cody Miller led off the sixth with a homer to give the Terriers a 3-2 lead. The tank hit empty on Hawkins (0-2) when he walked the first two batters in the eighth. Two bunts and and one error later, Wofford added two more runs without a hit.

Hershman (2-3) came on in the fifth with a man on and one out and didn't allow a hit until Logan Taplett's two-out single in the ninth. Hershman then struck out pinch-hitter Jared Mihalik to end the game. Hershman had one walk and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief.

Anderson and Taplett had two hits apiece to account for four of Furman's six.

The Paladins return to action Wednesday at Gardner-Webb at 6 p.m.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Big plays lift Paladins to big win over Wofford

Furman's Sims Griffith hit a two-run homer and made big plays defensively
to help the Paladins defeat Wofford 4-3 Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
A script for beating one of the Southern Conference's top aces probably wouldn't include no RBIs from the top seven batters in your lineup. A script for slowing down one of the most aggressive base-running teams in the country probably wouldn't suggest allowing 13 hits.

So you might say that Furman improvised its way to a huge win Friday evening at Latham Stadium. The Paladins played spectacular defense, made Wofford pay for its defensive miscues, and came up with some big pitches to open the three-game series with a 4-3 victory.

"Win or loss, that's the way baseball should be played. We just played with passion, a ton of energy and competed our tails off," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "That's probably the best we've competed all year.
"We just showed a lot of grit facing what I think is the best starting pitcher (Wofford's Adam Scott) in the league. ... Your margin of error was so small with that kind of opposing pitcher on the mound."

Catcher Logan Taplett and second baseman Sims Griffith, the No. 8 and 9 hitters respectively in Furman's lineup, shined at the plate and in the field Friday.

Furman (17-17, 3-4 SoCon) trailed 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth when Taplett bounced on RBI-single up the middle to tie the game.

An inning later, Taplett threw out Wofford's McClain Bradley trying to steal second. That marked just the 15th time this season that a Terrier was caught stealing, and just the eighth time Taplett gunned down a runner in 40 attempts. Wofford (23-12, 4-3) entered Friday ranked No. 3 in the NCAA in stolen bases with 93. While the Terriers had two steals Friday, they were both uncontested as each came at second with runners on first and third.

"(Taplett) threw him out by a ton. Our pitchers did an unbelievable job of controlling the running game but when we got that opportunity and threw him out at second, you just felt the momentum shift," Harker said. "When that happened it was like 'okay, the things we worked on all week will work when we execute them.' He called an unbelievable game too."

Griffith ended the top of the fifth by running deep into right-field foul territory and making a fantastic backhanded catch. He then started the top of the sixth with basically the same play, although not as deep into foul ground.

In the bottom of the sixth, Landon Kay reached on an error and stole second. With two outs, Taplett bounced a 1-2 pitch from Scott for another single up the middle. That scored Kay and gave Furman a 2-1 lead. Griffith followed with his second home run of the season to push the lead to three.

"I haven't really been swinging it that well, but I started seeing it better today. I was pretty confident at the plate even though my first two at-bats didn't go my way. I just kept with it and just connected with one," Griffith said. "One of our main team things is being resilient. I really think we showed that today in every aspect. They were hitting the ball around on us, but we persevered and made the play when we had to."

The biggest play on an evening full of gems came in the top of the seventh. After Tyler Kimbrell came on in relief of starter Nik Verbeke, he got the first out before the Terriers had three consecutive singles to load the bases. Wofford cleanup hitter Andrew Orzel hit a ball deep into foul territory in right that Griffith once again was able to track down. However with Griffith's back to the infield, Furman rightfielder Landon Kay wisely called for it. After making the catch, Kay fired the ball home with a money throw to Taplett who tagged out Wofford leadoff man Colin Davis trying to score from third to end the inning.

The Terriers cut the lead to 4-2 with one out in the eighth when Jake Crawford came on in relief of Kimbrell. Wofford got another run before Crawford stranded runners at second and third with an inning-ending strikeout of Bradley, who went 3-for-5 Friday to raise his team-leading batting average to .373.

Crawford opened the ninth by striking out Mack Nathanson, who's batting .342 with team highs in homers (6) and RBIs (34). After a hit batter, Crawford's next pitch was grounded to third to start a game-ending 5-4-3 double play as Crawford pumped his fist in celebration.

"To end the game on a double play with the entire infield out of position (due to Crawford pitching instead of playing third) right there, that's special," Harker said.

Verbeke (4-2) allowed one run on six hits in six innings for a well-deserved win. He had two walks and five strikeouts, including one of Nathanson with one run in and two runners on in the third and another with the bases loaded to end the fourth. Crawford recorded the final five outs for his second save.

"The kid (Verbeke) competes ... and he's got a ton of heart," Harker said.

Scott (5-3) took the complete game loss for the Terriers. He allowed four runs, one earned, on seven hits in eight innings. Scott had one walk and 11 strikeouts giving him 11 walks and a SoCon-best 80 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.

The teams wrap up the series with a doubleheader Saturday scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Paladins fall short against Winthrop

Furman freshman Ben Anderson had three hits in the Paladins'
5-4 loss to Winthrop Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Furman collected some big hits down the stretch Tuesday, but couldn't get the biggest it needed. The Winthrop allowed one run in the eighth and two more in the ninth but held on for a 5-4 win over the Paladins at Latham Stadium.

Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Furman started the inning with consecutive singles by Dillon Love, Ben Anderson, Jason Costa and Jared Mihalik. The singles by Costa and Mihalik each scored runs to cut the lead to 5-4.

That brought up cleanup hitter Jake Crawford, who entered Tuesday batting .304 with no sacrifices. The Paladins (16-17) appeared to have loaded the bases when Crawford swung away after showing bunt and hit a slow dribbler that he beat out. However, the umpires correctly ruled that it was foul ball off of Crawford. Winthrop reliever Dalton Whitaker got Crawford to miss on a 1-2 bunt attempt for the first out. Whitaker then induced groundballs from Deon Sanders and Landon Kay to end the threat and pick up his first save.

Bret Huebner's RBI-single gave Furman a 1-0 lead in the second.

It remained 1-0 until the fifth when Paladin starter John Michael Bertrand made his only mistake of the night. After getting the first two outs of the inning, Bertrand gave up singles to Winthrop leadoff man Jake Sullivan and Brandon Fite. Mitch Spires then launched a three-run home run to left that just got out over the outstretched arm of Mihalik.

The Eagles added single runs in the seventh and eighth before Kay hit a line drive rocket to left for his first home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth to cut the lead to 5-2.

Bertrand (3-1) allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings for his first loss of the season. He had no walks and one strikeout. Winthrop starter Jason Crumley, a former Travelers Rest High standout, had one run on four hits in four innings for the win. He had no walks and five strikeouts.

Anderson and Kay each went 3-for-5 to lead Furman. Costa and Mihalik, who saw his four-game homer streak end, added two hits apiece. Sullivan led Winthrop with three hits.

Furman returns to action this weekend at home against Wofford. Game 1 of the three-game series is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Paladins earn first series win over Mercer

Allowing a walk-off home run isn't typically the recipe for a fun bus ride home, but an exception could be made for Furman Sunday. While the last pitch of the weekend didn't go their way, quite a few other things did as the Paladins claimed a much-needed series win at Mercer after splitting a doubleheader.

Furman hung on for a 7-6 win in Sunday's first game, clinching its first-ever series win against the Bears. Mercer avoided the sweep with a 3-2 win on R.J. Yeager's ninth-inning home run in the nightcap.

The Paladins (16-16, 2-4 Southern Conference) became the first team to beat Mercer (26-8, 6-3) in consecutive games this season with Sunday's opening win. They're also just the second team in the last three seasons to win a series in Macon, Ga., joining Samford in 2017.

"That's about as gritty of a week as you can have. We're down 10-0 midweek, come back and win (over Georgia State Wednesday) and then go on the road to probably the hardest place in the Southern Conference to play and take two of three," Furman coach Brett Harker told Dan Scott afterwards. "That's an unbelievable week for us and I'm really proud of it. One swing of the bat and losing in the bottom of the ninth's not going to change that."

Furman 7, Mercer 6
Furman overcame striking out 15 times as a team and a four-run ninth-inning rally by Mercer to win Sunday's first game. Freshman Jared Mihalik's incredible week continued as he blasted a three-run home run to stake Furman to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

Bears starter Chase Burks (4-2) shut down the Paladins for the next five innings before the bats came back to life in the seventh. Ben Anderson had an RBI-double before Jason Costa followed with a two-run homer. Brandon Elmy capped the four-run inning with an RBI-single.

Much like on Friday's first game of the series, Mercer didn't go down without a fight. After the Bears drew four consecutive one-out walks in the ninth, Jake Crawford came on in relief for Furman. Crawford allowed runs to score on an infield single and wild pitch, but got the final two outs for his first save of the season and 10th of his career.

"When we had to make the pitch and had to make the play, we did just that," Harker said. "We bent, but we did not break and I'm proud of that."

Freshman Matt Lazzaro (3-4) allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings for the win. He had one walk and three strikeouts. Lazzaro was the first left-handed starter to beat Mercer this season as the Bears entered Sunday with a 10-0 record against southpaw starters.

Anderson, Costa and Mihalik had two hits apiece to lead the Paladins.

Mercer 3, Furman 2
The beat continued for Mihalik to open game two of the twinbill with a two-run homer in the first. It's the fourth consecutive game with a long ball for Mihalik.

A pair of Furman errors helped Mercer cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first. Jordan Ammons led off the bottom of the second with a game-tying home run.

It stayed 2-2 until the bottom of the ninth when Yeager led off by clubbing Jordan Beatson's 2-0 pitch over the leftfield fence for the walk-off homer.

After going eight excellent innings against Mercer in Furman's 6-1 win at last year's SoCon Tournament, Grant Schuermann turned in another brilliant performance against the Bears Sunday. Schuermann allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits in eight innings. He had no walks and six strikeouts.

"That's about as good as you can throw the baseball. His changeup was plus-plus, he mixed in a breaking ball and his fastball location was awesome," Harker said. "He competed his tail off and I more hate it for him that we couldn't figure out how to scratch another run."

Mercer reliever Robert Broom, who led the SoCon in ERA and wins entering the series, got a measure of revenge against Furman. After allowing five runs in Friday's loss, Broom (7-1) shut out the Paladins over the final 4 1/3 innings Sunday. He gave up one hit, no walks and struck out six.

Furman returns to action Tuesday, hosting Winthrop at 6 p.m.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Eight-run eighth lifts Paladins to win at Mercer

Jake Crawford belted a three-run home run in an eight-run eighth inning
Friday to help Furman win 12-9 at Mercer. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Two nights after rallying from a 10-0 deficit to snap an eight-game losing streak, the Furman baseball team might have pulled off a win even more remarkable Friday at Mercer. In a tie game in the eighth inning, the Paladins scored five runs off the Southern Conference's best pitcher this season and went on to a 12-9 victory.

The win gets Furman back to .500 at 15-15 overall and 1-3 in the SoCon. The Bears, who had won 13 of their last 14 games - including six in a row - entering Friday, fall to 25-7 and 5-2 in the league.

"We went to a place that I think is probably the hardest in the SoCon to win at, against the team to beat in the SoCon, and we had to not only do it against the best starter but also the best reliever in the conference," Furman coach Brett Harker told Dan Scott afterwards. "We did all that tonight and I'm very proud of our boys."

In a 4-4 game, Furman leadoff man Ben Anderson opened the top of the seventh with a single. Mercer called on reliever Robert Broom, who entered Friday as the SoCon's leader in ERA (1.26), tied for first in wins - with teammate and Friday starter Austin Cox at six, and third in strikeouts at 54 in just 35 2/3 innings. He immediately padded that strikeout total by fanning the side in the seventh.

The eighth inning was a different story. Brandon Elmy opened the frame with a double before Broom notched another strikeout. Jabari Richards singled and took second on the throw home that held pinch-runner David Webel at third. Bret Huebner laid down a squeeze bunt so perfect that he was easily safe at first and Webel easily scored the go-ahead run.

After Sims Griffith walked to load the bases, a wild pitch sent Richards home to make it 6-4. Another run scored on a Mercer error which ended Broom's night at 46 pitches. Freshman Jared Mihalik delivered a two-out RBI-single before Jake Crawford hammered a three-run home run the opposite way to push the lead to 11-4. After Deon Sanders' pinch-hit double, Landon Kay capped the eight-run inning with an RBI-single.

Things got dicey in the bottom half of the inning as a pair of Furman errors helped the Bears put up a five spot to cut the lead to 12-9. Tyler Kimbrell came on with two outs and got a strikeout to end the inning.

Mercer opened the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back singles before Kimbrell got a strikeout and a pop-up. That brought up cleanup hitter Trey Truitt, who entered Friday as the SoCon's leader in batting (.435), slugging (.774), on-base percentage (.529), runs (44), hits (50), home runs (10) and total bases (89), as the potential tying run. Kimbrell struck out Truitt looking to end the game. Truitt went 0-for-6, snapping his 29-game streak of reaching base.

"The bottom of the eighth was a little sketchy to say the least but I told our guys that anytime we can learn a lesson and still get a win out of it, that's a plus," Harker said.

Furman trailed 3-0 before putting up four runs in the fifth. Anderson's two-run triple got the Paladins on the board and Jason Costa's groundout brought Anderson home with the tying run. Mihalik followed with his second homer this season to give Furman a 4-3 lead. While he blanked the Paladins for the first four innings, Cox had to depart after five innings at the 111-pitch mark.

Despite allowing a game-tying home run after recording the first out of the bottom of the fifth, freshman Jordan Beatson allowed no more runs and just one other hit in three innings of relief for his first collegiate win. Beatson had no walks and two strikeouts. Kimbrell earned his fourth save.

"Beatson just comes in and gets big outs, puts up big zeros and lets you stay around for that big (offensive) inning to happen," Harker said. "It's a whole different story when you just need to figure out how to score one against (Broom) versus if they were up two or three runs."

Anderson, Mihalik and Huebner had three hits apiece to lead Furman's 16-hit attack.

The teams play game two of the three-game series Saturday at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Paladins snap losing streak in stunning fashion

Jabari Richards' eighth-inning grand slam lifted Furman to a 13-12
win over Georgia State Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
When Furman's homerless streak entered its 83rd inning Wednesday, the Paladins trailed 10-0 and appeared well on their way to a ninth consecutive loss. Then a bounce finally went Furman's way.

With two outs in the bottom of the third and Furman down 10-0, Jake Crawford lined a shot off Georgia State starter Bryan White. Given how things had been going the past two-and-a-half weeks, the ball seemed destined to carom right to first base for the third out. Instead it landed wide of first allowing Crawford to reach and Ben Anderson to come home.

Freshman Jared Mihalik followed with a home run to left, snapping Furman's homerless streak at 82 2/3 innings. The long ball did a lot more than give Mihalik his first collegiate RBI. It seemingly ripped the chains off the rest of the Paladins. Furman hit three more homers, including a pair of grand slams, to rally for a 13-12 win.

"We finally made a pitcher pay for a hanging breaking ball," Harker said of Mihalik's shot. "It felt like a curse was broken. ... All of a sudden, everybody just relaxed.
"That's baseball and that's why you come out and play nine innings because I'm going to tell you, it didn't really look that good."

It's the first win for the Paladins (14-15) since March 17, which was also the date of Furman's last home run prior to Wednesday as Anderson led off that game with a dinger.

The Panthers (13-15) opened the game with a pair of singles then loaded the bases when the Paladins fumbled a double play grounder. Brandon Bell followed with a grand slam. Georgia State added homers in the second and third to push its lead to 10-0.

After Mihalik's home run in the bottom of the third, Brandon Elmy followed with another homer to cut the lead to 10-4. The next inning, it was Georgia State that couldn't turn an inning-ending double play because of an error. The miscue loaded the bases for Jason Costa, who sent the next pitch over the left-field wall to make it 10-8.

The Panthers answered with two runs in the fifth, highlighted by Nick Gatewood's second homer of the day. Furman got a run back in the bottom half, scoring on an error to pull within three at 12-9.

The score remained that way until the bottom of the eighth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Jabari Richards drilled a 1-0 pitch over the centerfield wall giving the Paladins a 13-12 lead. Crawford worked around a one-out error in the ninth to close out the game.

"There were so many working parts to this game. To be honest with you, we did so many things wrong for half the game, but for us to just stick with it and the dugout never changed," Harker said. "That's different than how we've been for the past eight games. They never started pointing at each other and stayed positive."

It was just second pitching appearance since Feb. 24 for Crawford, who allowed six runs in 2/3 of an inning in his last outing at Wichita State. On Wednesday, Crawford (1-1) fired two scoreless, hitless innings. He had three walks and two strikeouts. Crawford followed Jordan Beatson, who allowed one hit and no runs in 2 1/3 innings. Beatson had three walks and four strikeouts.

"Tyler Kimbrell (who leads Furman in saves) is sick and wasn't even at the ballpark. (Heath) Hawkins' shoulder got tight," Harker said. "We had to bring in Crawford, who ended up doing the most with that opportunity."

Crawford was one of a few Paladins who took advantage of their chance to contribute Wednesday. Costa caught his first game of the season, which opened the door for Mihalik at designated hitter. In addition to the homer, Mihalik also had a double in his four at-bats.

When Crawford left third base to pitch, Furman lost the DH as Dillon Love entered the game. Love had a key single to set up Richards' grand slam.

The Paladins return to Southern Conference action this weekend, traveling to preseason favorite Mercer. Game 1 of the three-game series is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.

"If you asked me the best scenario going to Mercer, it wouldn't be going down 10 (runs). But in doing that, it showed that we're not out of any games," Harker said. "It showed that we can hit again. It showed that the bullpen can get big outs. So many things happened because of that deficit.
"The boys believe in themselves again and that's the biggest thing. When you've lost eight in a row, you've just got to go win a game and they did just that in a fashion that's pretty exciting."