ST. CATHARINE, Ky. – Baseball was dealt a pair of defeats on Saturday at St. Catharine as the Patriots (25-25, 15-12 MSC) celebrated a series sweep on their Senior Day. The three losses this weekend marks the first time all season the Bears (31-24, 14-12 MSC) were swept in an MSC series.
In the opening game, another strong effort from the Patriots' starting rotation kept the Bears off balance as Andrew Nelson went seven strong innings and scattered seven hits, while allowing just one run. He struck out seven during that time and walked three. Nelson left with a lead after his team scored twice in the second inning and added another run in the bottom of the sixth.
The only time the Bears got to Nelson over his seven innings came in the top of the sixth when Daniel Katayama (SR/Sao Paulo-Guarulhos, Brazil) worked a leadoff walk and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch before an RBI single from Nolan West (SO/Olivehurst, Calif.). Despite just the one run to show for their efforts at the plates, the Bears were able to make Nelson work for his outs and he was lifted after 99 pitches in seven innings.
Once Shawnee State was able to get into the St. Catharine bullpen, the Bears immediately began to find their offensive grove and scored twice in the eighth to tie the game. A double from Katayama started the rally. He would come around to score on an RBI double from West. Brady Hightchew (SO/Newport, Ky.) then singled home the game-tying run with one out. The inning came to a close tied at 3-3 with an unsuccessful double steal attempt as the Bears had runners on first and third but had the runner on third nailed trying to swipe the go-ahead run.
Walks to Brady Page (JR/Las Vegas, Nev.) and Todd Queener (SR/Mentor, Ohio) put the first two runners on in the top of the ninth. A fielder's choice put runners on the corners with one out and Katayama was able to get a bunt down as Page scored the go-ahead run, giving SSU a 4-3 advantage in the top of the ninth. Shawnee State starter Zak Esposito (SR/Sandusky, Ohio) went back out for the ninth and got two of the first three hitters he faced in the inning. A second single in the inning kept St. Catharine's chances alive before an SSU error allowed the game-tying run to score before Esposito got out of the inning.
The Patriots then scored the game-winning walk-off run in the bottom of the 10th after on a one-out RBI single to win 5-4. St. Catharine manufactured the run with a leadoff single that was bunted into scoring position. Esposito took a no decision as he went nine innings and struck out seven batters.
St. Catharine capped off the series sweep with a third straight solid outing from its starting rotation as Steven Borkowski went the full seven innings and allowed just three hits, while striking out seven. His team got him run support early as the Patriots manufactured another run in the first and added two more runs on three SSU errors in the bottom of the third. The Patriots capped their scoring with three runs on four hits in the fifth.
Borkowski retired each of the first nine hitters that he faced. The Bears got back-to-back singles in the fourth from Queener and West to threaten, but a double play ended that chance at a rally. Shawnee State scored twice in its final at-bats to put a little bit of a scare into the Patriots. Blake Maines (FR/Burlington, Ky.) walked to start the final inning, while Mason Wisner (JR/Bay Village, Ohio) reached on an error. A passed ball and second error allowed the first run to score, while Dustin Bickmeyer (SR/O'Fallon, Mo.) recorded an RBI groundout to make the score 6-2. That put runners on the corners with two down before a pop in foul ground thwarted the SSU rally.
Baseball will now have to await the final results of today's conference games for their opponent in the opening round of the Mid-South Conference Tournament. The highest the Bears could finish is now fourth place. The MSC Tournament will get underway Sunday, May 4 inside Lindsey Wilson's Egnew Park.