PORTSMOUTH – Playing as the visitor on the scoreboard, the Shawnee State baseball team were able to capture their first conference victory over the "host" Bluefield College Rams, 12-7, in large part thanks to a break out eight run fourth inning.
Due to threatening weather in Bluefield, the weekend series that was originally scheduled to play on the Rams (7-8, 2-2) home turf was moved to Branch Rickey Park. Both teams combined for 37 hits for 19 runs as the Bears (9-8, 1-0) used four multi-hit players to help seize their season conference opener.
In what has become a common trend for Shawnee State, the Bears once again clawed themselves back from an early deficit. The Rams scored four runs in the opening two innings off of Shawnee State's starting pitcher Zak Esposito.
However, after mustarding out two hits in the first three innings the Bears bats came alive in the fourth. Trailing 4-0, Shawnee State saw 13 batters reach the plate for eight runs on seven hits to grab an 8-4 lead.
The huge inning got started with back-to-back singles from Calvin Sluberski and Joe Henderson. Colin Keim then followed with a fielder's choice, only to have the shortstop mishandle a throw, allowing Sluberski to give the Bears their first run on the game. The inning continued as Cody Spires singled, setting up Jake Lankheit two-RBI single down the left field line scoring pinch runner Aaron Suydam and Henderson.
The inning continued as 10 batters reached base as Keim, Lankheit, Charles Matsunami, Todd Queener, Sluberski, and Henderson all had at least one RBI in the inning. Henderson, who went 2-for-6 with 2 RBI's, got both of his hits and RBI's in the fourth inning. Keim, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI, was the only other Bear that reached base twice in the inning.
Esposito (2-2), who allowed four runs on eight hits in the first two innings, settled down over his final four innings of work. Esposito didn't allow another run and finished tossing 6.0 innings.
Leading 8-4 heading to the seventh, Shawnee State scored three more runs to extend their lead to 11-4. Lankheit, who went 4-for-5 at the plate with 3 RBI's and two runs scored, started the inning with a double. Daniel Katayama then reached base as the third baseman overthrow the first basemen on a bunt, allowing Lankheit to score. Brady Hightchew then singled to score pinch runner Mitchell Lendenski. After Hightchew advanced to third base after a one-out single from T. Queener; Tyler Bice laid down a squeeze bunt to score Hightchew.
Leading by seven, the Bears used Brandon Bonar and Jordan Williams in relief of Esposito to close out the game. The two pitchers combined throwing 3.0 innings allowing three runs on seven hits and striking out five to help grab their first conference victory.
Shawnee State will be back in action tomorrow to wrap-up the weekend series with Bluefield. The doubleheader is set to begin at noon.