COLUMBIA, Ky. – Baseball edged out Lindsey Wilson by a 2-1 final Sunday afternoon to take the rubber match of the three-game series. Like Saturday's games, it was another pitcher's duel from the start. Zak Esposito (SR/Sandusky, Ohio) went the full nine innings as the Bears (23-18, 10-7 MSC) got into the Blue Raiders' (21-19, 9-8 MSC) bullpen before the ninth inning and pushed across the winning run, allowing Esposito to come back for the ninth inning to nail down the final three outs.
Shawnee State took the lead early as the Bears got a two-out single from Dalton Tinsley (JR/Kokomo, Ind.) in the top of the second. Brady Hightchew (SO/Newport, Ky.) kept the inning alive with a walk. From there, Tinsley swiped third base while Hightchew followed him with a stolen base of his own to put runners on second and third. However, Tinsley was not done as he also stole home during the same at-bat to put the Bears on the board first.
Esposito retired the first four batters that he faced on the day and erased the lone single in the second inning with the help of his defense in turning a double play. Lindsey Wilson got its only run of the afternoon off of the Bears' starter in the third. A leadoff single advanced to second on a stolen base before Esposito set the next two batters down on strikeouts. However, a two-double knotted the game at 1-1.
The Bears' right hander worked out of a second and third with one out situation in the fourth, but would do so with a grounder to second and fly ball to center. He also stranded a leadoff single in the top of the fifth. During the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, Esposito did not allow a Blue Raider to reach base.
However, Shawnee State was also unable to get anything going off of Lindsey Wilson starter Scott Sebald. Despite nothing to show for their efforts on the scoreboard, the Bears made Sebald work to the point where he was removed after eight innings and 92 pitches.
The Blue Raiders opted for Sam Ross in the top of the ninth. Daniel Katayama (SR/Sao Paulo-Guarulhos, Brazil) greeted him with a one-out single. Mitchell Lendenski (SO/Loveland, Ohio) would then come on to run for him and swiped second base on a 2-1 pitch. With the runner in scoring position, Blake Maines (FR/Burlington, Ky.) walked to put two runners aboard.
After taking a called first strike, Mason Wisner (JR/Bay Village, Ohio) delivered an RBI single through the hole at shortstop to give the Bears a 2-1 lead. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with one out; however, Ross got a pair of strikeouts to escape further damage.
Nevertheless, that one additional run would be enough as the Bears sent Esposito out for the ninth to finish what he started. He would lock the series win by retiring Lindsey Wilson in order in the ninth. He started off the inning with a grounder to third before a strikeout and fly ball to right field put the Blue Raiders down in succession. Esposito finished off the game by retiring the final 15 batters that he faced after the leadoff single in the fifth.
The Bears' right hander improved to 4-2 on the season with the win. He allowed five hits and one walk, while striking out six on the mound. Esposito's complete game was the second of his season and fifth of his Shawnee State career. However, it was his first nine inning complete game of his SSU career.
Baseball will return home to Branch Rickey Park this Wednesday for a 4 p.m. single game against Ohio-Chillicothe. The Bears next MSC series will be next weekend against Bluefield College on the Bears' home turf. In total, nine of the Bears' final 13 regular season games will be played inside Branch Rickey Park.