LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – Baseball was unable to come up with a much-needed shutdown inning following runs in their top half of the inning as the Bears (0-1) fell to Georgia Gwinnett (1-0), 11-6. Each team scored in the same three innings in what was the season opener for both squads. However, every time the Bears would take a lead in the ball game, the Grizzlies answered back. The big inning came in the seventh when the Bears had just taken a 6-4 lead after the top half before Georgia Gwinnett erupted for seven runs in the bottom half, making the final score stand up after some ninth inning drama.
The Bears struck strike first in the top of the second inning when Mason Wisner led off with a single. Blake Mains then doubled to right field, putting runners on second and third with one down. Daniel Katayama then grounded to short but the ball was misplayed, allowing the first run of the game to score. The Grizzlies would not get a hit off of Bears' starter Cody Strayer in the bottom of the second but two hit by pitches and two walks forced in the tying run.
Shawnee State would retake the lead in the fifth inning. Brady Hightchew started the inning with a double down the left field line. Brady Page reached on dropped third strike wild pitch to put two aboard. Ryan Queener bunted and moved both of those runners up a base with the sacrifice bunt, while Dustin Bickmeyer delivered the clutch two-out single, allowing a pair of unearned runs to cross the plate.
Once again, Georgia Gwinnett was little time answering the SSU lead the Bears took in the top half of the fifth. After Strayer got the leadoff batter to ground out to first, the Grizzlies got another inning started with a hit by pitch. The next two batters would then double and single, bringing home a pair of runs.
The Bears went to the bullpen and called on Steven Easterling with one out and the runner on first. He would get a ground ball to second against the first batter he faced in his collegiate debut. However, that ball was misplayed and the error would loom large as the Grizzlies took the lead in the next at-bat with a single to go up 3-2 before Easterling escaped the jam with a strikeout and foul out.
Shawnee State took the lead for the third time in the seventh inning. Hightchew got the inning going again with a leadoff single. Page would work a walk after that, putting runners on before Queener laid down a bunt that went for a single plus an extra base for all after a throwing error that put runners on second and third with nobody out and a run already in. Two quick outs on the infield held those base runners with two down. This time, it was Wisner's turn for the two-out clutch hit to score a pair, giving SSU a 6-4 lead.
Georgia Gwinnett would land its big inning in the bottom half as the first eight hitters of the inning would all reach base, four on hits and four more on walks. That would score six runs and still nobody was out in the frame. The seventh and final run of that inning came on a called balk as the Grizzlies took an 11-6 lead despite just four hits in the inning.
After a silent eighth inning, pinch-hitter Mitchell Lendenski and Queener worked back-to-back walks to get a potential rally started in the ninth inning. The Grizzlies wasted no time in making the call to the bullpen, bringing in Jonathan Spitler. Spitler got the first out of the inning on an infield pop out. Todd Queener worked a one-out walk in the next at-bat to load the bases but Spitler would induce a fly ball to right field and a grounder to short to lock down the save.
Wisner and Hightchew each finished the game with two hits for the Bears. Wisner would drive in two runs and score once. Hightchew would score two of the Bears' runs. Bickmeyer also finished with two RBI in the season opener.
The Bears will be back in action tomorrow afternoon in a doubleheader with both ends slated to go the full nine. Game one will get underway at 2 p.m.