Monday, May 14, 2018

Paladins earn critical series win at ETSU

Ben Anderson had two hits, including his school-record seventh triple
this season, and three RBIs in Furman's 9-4 win at ETSU Sunday.
One good trend for Furman's baseball team stopped Friday at ETSU, but a not-so-good one also changed over the rest of the weekend. It added up to a huge series win for the Paladins. After getting hammered 15-2 in Friday's series opener, Furman came back with a 6-5 win on Saturday and a 9-4 win Sunday. Entering the weekend, the Paladins were 4-2 in opening games of SoCon series, but just 3-9 in the second and third games of series.

Reversing that scenario proved to be significant for Furman's place in the SoCon standings going into the final week of the regular season. Perhaps most importantly, the Paladins have assured themselves of not being in the No. 8 vs. 9 "play-in" game at the SoCon Tournament. The Citadel and Western Carolina have clinched eighth and ninth place, respectively.

While currently in seventh place in the SoCon, Furman (24-26, 9-12) could finish as high as fourth. The Paladins are a game behind ETSU and Mercer and hold the tie-breaker over both. Furman is two games back of VMI and doesn't have that tie-breaker. Coming up this week, Mercer hosts Citadel, ETSU plays at third-place Wofford and VMI is at second-place Samford. The Paladins host first-place UNC Greensboro, which has already clinched the top seed for the tournament.

On Sunday, the Paladins jumped out to an early lead and got a couple of strong pitching performances to make it hold up. Freshman left-hander John Michael Bertrand allowed four runs on five hits in six innings to get the win. Bertrand (5-3) had one walk and four strikeouts. Tyler Kimbrell worked three scoreless innings for his sixth save. Kimbrell gave up two hits and one walk and struck out five.

Furman took a 3-0 lead in the second on an RBI-single by Sims Griffith and a two-run triple by Ben Anderson. It was the seventh triple of the season for the freshman, which is a new Furman record. The lead grew to 5-0 in the fifth before ETSU got on the board on Jackson Greer's solo homer with two out.

The Buccaneers (26-21, 10-11) cut the lead to one in the seventh. After Caleb Longley hit the second pitch of the bottom of the seventh out for his SoCon-leading 14th homer, Aaron Maher hit a two-run shot five pitches later to make it 5-4 Furman. Kimbrell came on and blanked ETSU the rest of the way.

The Paladins gave Kimbrell some breathing room with a four-run eighth. Furman opened the inning with four consecutive hits, including an RBI-double by Jake Crawford and RBI-single by Logan Taplett. Ben Anderson and Jabari Richards had back-to-back RBI-singles to cap the inning.

Anderson, Crawford, Taplett and Bret Huebner each had two hits to lead Furman.

The Paladins wrap up non-conference play Tuesday, hosting Gardner-Webb at 6 p.m. The UNCG series begins Thursday at 6 p.m. at Latham Stadium.

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