PORTSMOUTH – Baseball completed a weekend sweep of Pikeville with a pair of victories Saturday afternoon. Playing its final home conference weekend of the season, Shawnee State (28-21, 14-9 MSC) honored its seniors in the best way it knew how, picking up 11-4 and 5-1 victories over visiting Pikeville (21-27, 6-17 MSC).
After a fairly routine opening two innings, Pikeville got on the board first in game one with two runs in the third. With just a one-out walk on first and two outs, Pikeville got three straight two-out hits. With one run already in, the third hit of the inning brought home the second run before a collision at the plate resulted in the third out of the inning and the ejection of UPike's courtesy runner.
Despite the protest from the Pikeville bench and subsequent spill over onto the field in between innings between the two teams, the call stood. Shawnee State would get on the board two innings later as Mason Wisner (JR/Bay Village, Ohio) doubled off the left centerfield wall to start the fifth. A walk to Dalton Tinsley (JR/Kokomo, Ind.) and sacrifice bunt from Dustin Bickmeyer (SR/O'Fallon, Mo.) put runners on second and third with two outs. SSU got one out of the inning with an RBI groundout from Brady Hightchew (SO/Newport, Ky.).
However, the Bears big inning was yet to come as Shawnee State would score five times in the sixth inning to take the lead for good. Seniors Ryan Queener (SR/Mentor, Ohio) and Daniel Katayama (SR/Sao Paulo-Guarulhos, Brazil) were right in the middle of things with a walk and single with one away. Jake Cain (SO/Cold Spring, Ky.) then worked a walk to load the bases with that one out. Wisner singled up the middle to tie the game at 2-2 before Tinsley doubled into the right centerfield gap, giving his team a 4-2 lead. A suicide squeeze was successful with Bickmeyer at the plate before a sacrifice fly from Hightchew put Shawnee State up 6-2 after six full innings.
The teams traded runs in the bottom of the seventh and top of the eighth. Shawnee State scored its run on an RBI single from Cain that scored Todd Queener (SR/Mentor, Ohio), who started the inning with a single and later swiped second base.
Shawnee State blew the game open in the bottom of the eighth with four final runs. Wisner was hit by pitch to start the inning. Pikeville then committed back-to-back errors during bunting situations, allowing the first run to score. A sacrifice fly from Hightchew brought the second run of the inning home before RBI singles from Todd Queener and Katayama capped the Bears' scoring and gave them an 11-3 lead heading to the ninth inning.
SSU starter Zak Esposito (SR/Sandusky, Ohio) took the mound for the ninth and got the first two batters he faced. However, a walk and RBI single after the runner moved to second on a defensive indifference would bring an end to his day after 8.2 innings of work as he allowed nine hits and four runs, while striking out a career-high nine batters on his Senior Day. The Bears would call on Taylor Smith (SO/Crestview Hills, Ky.) for the final out as Esposito won his fifth game of the season.
Shawnee State started game two by scoring in each of its first three times at-bat and never look back. A leadoff single from Todd Queener, sacrifice bunt from Ryan Queener and RBI single into centerfield from Cain put the Bears up 1-0 after the first. Singles from Tinsley, Bickmeyer and a bunt base hit from Brady Page (JR/Las Vegas, Nev.) loaded the bases in the second before a Pikeville error allowed the second run of the game to score.
The Bears scored three more runs to round out their offensive in the third. Cain started the inning with a double, while Wisner was hit by pitch to put two aboard. With one out, Bickmeyer beat the outfield as the centerfielder came in too hard for the catch and Bickmeyer scampered to third with a two-run triple. A single from Hightchew then scored the fifth and final Bears' run of the game.
That would be more than enough support for Shawnee State starter Cody Strayer (SO/Worthington, Ohio). Strayer retired 10 of the first 11 batters that he faced with an infield error in the third being the only runner to reach on him. Pikeville would threaten in the fourth as it scored its first run of the game and loaded the bases with no outs. However, Strayer got the next two batters to go down swinging to strand the bases loaded.
Strayer would end up pitching a complete game for his fourth victory of the season. The complete game was his sixth of the season and ninth of his career. Strayer scattered eight hits and allowed just the one run, while striking out four in the game.
Baseball will close out the regular season this week. On Monday, the Bears will host Ohio Christian in a doubleheader that has been moved up to a 3 p.m. start time. The home schedule concludes with a 4 p.m. game against Ohio-Lancaster on Wednesday.
With three more games left in the conference season, the Bears are currently tied for second overall with Cumberland University. The Bears will travel to St. Catharine next weekend to wrap up conference play.