Baseball on fire with seven game win streak

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Sean Karoly

skaroly@radford.edu

RU sweep series against Big South conference opponent Winthrop University 

The Highlanders finished on an upswing Sunday, April 7, completing a sweep over conference opponent Winthrop University. The sweep brought the team to a seven game winning streak, also having won nine of the last 10 games.

The first two games were played in doubleheader fashion, with the first recorded as the longest of the season for both teams.

Sophomore pitcher Tyler Costello gave up a triple and two runs in the top of the first inning to give Winthrop an early 2-0 lead in the first game. Costello settled down, though, after the first and didn’t give up another run until the top of the sixth from a deep sacrifice fly by Winthrop third baseman Chad Smith.

RU chipped in their first run when senior infielder Jeff Kemp hit a sacrifice fly of his own to score sophomore infielder Josh Gardiner.

The Highs tacked on two more in the bottom half of the fifth after sophomore third baseman Hunter Higgerson scored on a groundout to second by junior catcher Josh Reavis. Gardiner advanced to third on the play.

Kemp was the next batter and struck out swinging. However, the pitch was wild and Kemp reached first while Gardiner was able to score from third on the errant throw.

After two sacrifice flies by Winthrop’s Chad Smith and a sacrifice fly from senior designated hitter Ryan Burgess, the score was all knotted up four a piece in the top of the ninth inning.

Sophomore pitcher Michael Costello had taken the mound for

the Highs in the eighth inning and went all the way until the 13th inning without giving up a run. In the top of the 13th, Smith cashed in against RU again, this time with a single up the middle scoring first baseman Clay Altman.

Undeterred, the Highs came up big in the bottom of the frame. Sophomore infielder Patrick Marshall doubled down the left field line and scored freshman outfielder Shane Johnsonbaugh.

Gardiner was then intentionally walked and Reavis followed the walk up with a single to load the bases. With the bases loaded, Kemp used his eye to work a full count walk and score the winning run in the bottom of the 13th. The final score was 6-5.

In the second half of the doubleheader the team found themselves down early again, this time a 6-0 deficit after the Eagles scored six runs in the top of the second against freshman Michael Boyle.

The Highs responded immediately with four runs of their own in the bottom half of the second. Higgerson hit a double down the right field line which scored Burgess and junior infielder Alexander Lee.

Junior outfielder Blake Sipe came up to bat two batters later and hit a double of his own, scoring Higgerson.

Gardiner then one-upped Higgerson and Sipe with a triple that scored Sipe and cut the lead down to 6-4.

The team wasn’t done yet–-in fact they weren’t even close to being done. Kemp hit a two run home run in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score up at 6-6.

Radford then scored four more runs in the bottom of the sixth to stretch their advantage to 10-6. Sipe put the finishing touches on with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the eighth, to make the score 11-6.

The 11 unanswered runs were more than enough for the bullpen. Freshman pitcher Nygeal Andrews sealed the deal in the bottom of the ninth, and the Highs won 11-7.

Freshman pitcher Ryan Meisinger earned the victory after he replaced Boyle in the second inning. He went five innings, struck out four, and gave up only two hits.

The third game of the series started out just like the other two, as senior pitcher Keith Fritz gave up three early runs in the top of the first.

This time around, freshman infielder Zach Woolcock was the first to strike for Radford with a single to right, scoring Jeff Kemp and Josh Reavis.

Winthrop scored two more in the top of the fifth, and Fritz was taken out of the game after surrendering eight hits and five earned runs.

The Highs put up two runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the deficit back to just one run. Higgerson doubled to left, scoring Woolcock and Kemp, and advanced Lee to third. The team may have been able to put up additional runs, but Lee was flown out on a sacrifice fly attempt by freshman infielder Chris Coia.

In the bottom of the eighth, Gardiner came up huge for RU. After Marshall subbed in and got a pinch hit single, runners were on first and third with one out. Sipe reached on a fielder’s choice, but runners for the Highs remained at first and third.

Gardiner took an 0-1 pitch and roped it down right field for the two run triple, giving the Highs their first lead of the afternoon at 6-5.

“I was sitting inside because he had been throwing inside the whole game,” said Gardiner. “It ended up being an out pitch on the outside so I tried to stay back on it as much as I could and drive it off the wall.”

As if the triple wasn’t enough, Gardiner broke for home on an 0-0 count to Josh Reavis. Winthrop pitcher Steven Howell was caught unaware and threw the ball in the dirt, skidding past catcher Austen Barber. Gardiner scored with ease and provided the final run for yet another Highlander comeback.

“Our execution offensively has been really good, and our bullpen has been outstanding,” said Head Coach Joe Raccuia about the winning streak. “Like always we’ve played good defense, but we need to get better starts than what we’ve been getting.”

A good start is imperative for the next game, as they take on sixth ranked University of Virginia at Davenport Field Wednesday, April 10 at 6 p.m.