Radford baseball uses four run sixth to avoid sweep

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Michael Marzzacco | mmarzzacco@radford.edu

After falling to UVA on the road 11-3 on Tuesday night, the baseball team returned home to welcome Northern Virginia foe George Mason for alumni weekend as numerous former Radford baseball greats were in attendance throughout the series.  It was the Highlanders final non-conference weekend series this season.

The series was originally supposed to kick off on Friday but rain postponed the contest and turned Saturday into a doubleheader.  Radford dropped both games that afternoon by counts of 2-0 and 9-3.  The losing dropped Radford’s record to 10-29 overall entering Sunday’s series finale.  The Highlanders were looking to avoid the sweep and they got it with an 8-7 victory.

The Patriots jumped out to a 3-1 lead early on before the Highlanders scored two runs in the fourth to tie the game.  The Highlanders got things started when Trevor Riggs led off with a double to left field and Jonathan Gonzalez reached base on a fielding error.  With runners at first and second, Jordan Taylor laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up a base.  However, a wild throw by the third baseman gave the runners an extra base as Riggs scored and Gonzalez moved to third base.  Taylor was thrown out at second but it helped start the first of two rallies.  Nygeal Andrews came up and smacked a double into the right-center field gap to score Gonzalez and knot the contest at 3.

George Mason retook the lead in the top of the fifth with three runs on four hits to go up 6-3.  The Radford bats started going in the sixth inning.  Colby Higgerson lined a single into right field.  Luke Wise followed with a two run homer over the right field wall.  It was his third home run of the season and pulled Radford within 6-5 with just one out in the sixth.

After the home run and a pitching change, Chris Coia took first base with a five pitch walk.  Shane Johnsonbaugh was then due up looking to move Coia into scoring position with a base hit.  Johnsonbaugh got more than just a hit as he belted a triple down the right field line to plate Coia from first base to tie the game at six.  Danny Hrbek gave Radford a 7-6 lead with an RBI groundout to first that scored Johnsonbaugh from third.

After Radford took the lead Travis McQueen, who was on the mound in relief, retired four of the next seven batters with strikeouts.  He went a total of 4.1 innings and struck out a career-high eight batters.

Wise got his second extra-base hit when he led off the eighth with a double into the left-center field gap.  Coia advanced Wise to third via a sac bunt.  Johnsonbaugh provided the insurance run with a sacrifice fly into right field that scored Wise and gave Radford an 8-6 edge.

The top of the ninth was dramatic.  McQueen retired the first two batters but allowed a double to Greg Popatak.  Trevor Kelly came up looking for his third RBI of the afternoon.  With a 1-2 count, Kelly hit a ball down the left field line.  The baseball curved to the left of the foul pole as the third base umpire signaled a home run that tied the game.  Radford baseball head coach Joe Raccuia pleaded his case after the ball appeared to go foul.  After a conference among the umpires, Kelly’s two run homer was overturned.  With another chance to close out the game, McQueen walked Kelly and the next batter to load up the bases.

Radford made a call to the bullpen as Austin Ross came in to face a bases loaded jam.  Ross walked the next batter which pulled Mason to within 8-7.  Ross regrouped as he retired pinch hitter Garett Driscoll with a 93 mph fastball to earn his first career save as Radford held on for the 8-7 win.

“I thought we made the most of our at bats today for the first time in a long time.  We executed moving runners up 90 feet and working early in counts.  Today, we were really clean defensively.  We got some really good things from the fifth inning on from Travis McQueen.  He kept the lead for us and threw some big pitches,” said head coach Joe Raccuia.

Baseball played Tuesday against East Tennessee State and this weekend will welcome Gardner-Webb to Radford Baseball Stadium for a weekend series beginning Friday night at 6:30 p.m.