Friday, February 14, 2020

Bertrand hurls Paladins to opening day win

John Michael Bertrand allowed one run on two hits in six innings in
Furman's 7-5 win over La Salle Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman
During the course of the 2019 baseball season, Furman's John Michael Bertrand pitched himself up the ladder into the Friday night starter position. Based on Friday's 2020 season opener, he has no plans of giving it up.

Bertrand pitched perhaps the finest game of his career as the Paladins defeated La Salle, 7-5, at Latham Stadium. Bertrand (1-0) allowed one run on two hits in six innings and had no walks and seven strikeouts. Of his 74 pitches, 54 were strikes. After allowing a leadoff home run in the second inning, the redshirt junior left-hander retired the final 15 batters he faced.

"What a performance. That's probably the best I've ever seen him," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "Everything that happened today, he deserves it. You can compliment him because you know he's just going to work that much harder to get better.
"Honestly, the home run was probably the best thing to happen to him because it ticked him off a little. That was a freshman who took a really good swing on him. He was that much more sharp the rest of the way."

La Salle starter Colin Scanlon was matching his fellow left-hander pitch-for-pitch before his own error opened the door for Furman in the fifth. With two outs, No. 9 hitter Aidan Healy delivered a two-run double to give the Paladins a 2-1 lead. It was the first collegiate hit for the freshman who was a last-minute addition to the lineup when fellow freshman Eli Weisner was scratched with an arm injury.

Jordan Starkes followed by roping a single to center to score Healy. Furman put up three more runs in the sixth, highlighted by RBI-singles from Dax Roper and Banks Griffith.

"We had a freshman replace another freshman and Healy made a huge play (banging into the wall on a catch in right field) in the ninth and got the big hit to break things open," Harker said. "You got to see a little bit of everything today. ... We're going to build off tonight."

The Explorers rallied a bit against the Furman bullpen with four runs on eight hits over the last three innings. However, Rob Hughes and Dominic Pianto didn't sustain further damage by throwing strikes. The trio of Paladins who pitched Wednesday combined for 12 strikeouts and no walks.

In his first game back after missing all of the 2019 season with an injury, senior Jake Crawford went 2-for-4. He had the Paladins' first hit - an opposite field single in the second, and their last hit - an RBI-single in the eighth.

"That kid's been through so much. Getting our first hit of the season is so fitting for Jake," Harker said. "That kid's not just the face of Furman baseball, he's the face of Furman. He's going to be a doctor and he's done everything on the baseball field."

Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.

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