DAYTON, Tenn. – Baseball swept host Bryan College to finish out a 3-1 weekend at the Bryan Invitational Saturday afternoon. The Bears (3-4) scored seven times in the first two innings of the opening game en route to a 9-4 win. Shawnee State then got a strong outing from starter Nolan West in the second game to pick up the sweep with a 4-2 victory.
Things got off to a quick start as Dalton Tinsley started the opening game with a leadoff double. A throwing error in the next at-bat put runners on second and third with nobody down. The next two batters would leave those runners in scoring position before Brandon Blackwelder came through with a two-out double, scoring both of those runners.
The big inning for the Bears came in the top of the second. A hit by pitch, double from Brady Page, and dropped third strike would set the table with nobody out. An RBI groundout by Ryan Queener would bring home the first run of the frame. Todd Queener and Mason Wisner were then walked and hit by pitch to force in the second run. Another RBI groundout off the bat of Dustin Bickmeyer scratched another run across before Daniel Katayama came through with a hit that scored the final two runs, putting the Bears up 7-0 heading to the bottom of the second.
Bryan would get on the board with two unearned runs in the bottom of third as starter Zak Esposito surrendered a two-out walk before a defensive error extended the inning. That error would come back to hurt as the next batter doubled home those two runners. He was caught stealing during the next at-bat to end the half inning.
Shawnee State answered back with its final two runs in the top of the fourth. These two runs also came with two outs as Bickmeyer worked a two-out walk before Katayama delivered the big blast to put his team up 9-2. The home run was the first of Katayama's career with the Bears. The Lions would also get their final two runs courtesy of a 2-0 blast in the bottom of the sixth off the bat of Justin Morhardt.
After going six strong innings, allowing six hits and two walks during that time and striking out three, Esposito turned the ball over to Brandon Bonar and the SSU bullpen. Bonar walked and struck out one during his scoreless inning of work to finish off the 9-4 win.
Esposito recorded his first win of the season in the game. Blackwelder finished the game three RBI for the Bears, while Bickmeyer and Katayama each drove home a pair of runs in the victory. Eight of the nine players in the Bears' starting lineup scored a run in the opening game. Tinsley finished as the only player to cross the plate twice.
After starting the opening game red hot, it was Bryan that opened the scoring during the second game. The Lions scored their first run of the game on a two-out single. The Lions would add their second two-out RBI hit of the game in the bottom of the third inning with a double that made it 2-0 after three full innings.
The Bears would threaten and ultimately breakthrough in the top of the fifth. Blackwelder singled to get the inning going, while Katayama was hit by pitch to put runners on first and second with nobody out. A call to the bullpen didn't seem to stop the SSU offense as Brady Hightchew loaded the bases after he beat out a bunt. Pinch-hitter Blake Maines drove in the first run of the game for SSU with an RBI groundout. The game would then be tied after a wild pitch scored Katayama from third base, making the score 2-2.
With a brand new ballgame heading into the bottom of the fifth, West set down Bryan in order and the SSU bats would pick up where they left off the previous inning with two more runs in this inning. With West on third after reaching on fielder's choice and Blackwelder on first after a dropped third strike, the Bears would execute a double steal to take the lead. They added another run with a Bryan error on the infield to take a 4-2.
West would allow just a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth and was sent out in the seventh inning to see if he could finish what he started. He got the first batter of the inning to fly out to center. However, two walks would bring a call to the bullpen as Wisner came in to shut the door, getting a line drive unassisted double play to pick up his first save with the Bears. West was credited with his first victory of the season after going 6.1 innings and allowing just four hits. He walked one in his first six inning of work, while striking out seven for the game.
Baseball will be back on the road next weekend for a three game series at St. Andrews in Laurinburg, N.C. The Bears will play two games on Saturday, February 15 with first pitch on that day set for 1 p.m. The Bears will return on Sunday for a single game that is scheduled for a noon start.