PORTSMOUTH – Baseball erased a 6-2 deficit against Cumberland Friday afternoon and held a 7-6 lead after seven innings but just could never find the magical eighth run that it need against the Bulldogs (10-6-1, 3-1 MSC) as the Bears (14-10, 3-1 MSC) were handed their first conference loss of the season, 8-7, in a 13-inning game.
The Bears were blanked each time at-bat over the last six innings, with four of those chances presenting the Bears with a walk off opportunity if they could have scored a run in any way possible. Despite the four run deficit after six innings, it was the Bears struck first on Friday. SSU opened the scoring with a singles from Colin Keim (4-for-6) and Cody Spires. A sacrifice bunt by Jake Lankheit moved the runners into scoring position and Daniel Katayama would bring the first run home on a sacrifice fly.
For the first four innings, the Bulldogs were unable to get anything off of SSU starter Zak Espisito, who ended up going seven innings and allowing six runs (four earned). The Bulldogs had no more than one hit in each of the first four innings but put up four runs on four hits and two walks before an Espisito strikeout would strand the bases loaded to avoid further damage in a four-run fifth. The Bears added an unearned run in the bottom half but would fall victim to defensive lapses in the top half of the sixth as the Bulldogs put two runners on via errors and scored both with a one-out double to make it 6-2 after six.
However, the Bears would not only erase that lead in the seventh, they would hold a one-run advantage after a five-run outburst. A Katayama double and Tyler Bice single with an Aaron Suydam walk loaded the bases with nobody out. After a pitching change, Todd Queener singled off the reliever while Calvin Sluberski drew a bases loaded walk. A wild pitch brought the third run home while walks to Keim and Spires after a strikeout forced the tying run in before Lankheit brought home the go-ahead run on sacrifice fly that was barely beaten out by Sluberski as he dove head first into home.
With the lead heading to the eighth, Jordan Williams would come on in relief of Espisito. The Bulldogs got the game-tying run on base via a walk and after a Bears' throwing error on a sacrifice bunt put runners on the corners, an RBI fielder's choice groundout brought home tying run.
The Bears put runners on first and second with one out in their eighth but managed nothing else while Williams had to strand a runner on third to send the game to extras. Williams set down the Bulldogs side in order in the 10th and the Bears had a runner on second with one out but stranded him in the bottom half.
Both sides would put a runner on second base in the 11th inning but neither could advance him any further than that. Williams set down the side in succession in the 12th while SSU managed just a walk in its fourth straight inning with a chance to walk off a winner.
The Bulldogs would break through in the 13th after back-to-back one-out singles put runners on the corners. The visitors would then execute a double steal to perfection in what ended up being the eventual game-winning run. The Bears put their first two runners on in the bottom of the 13th with a Joe Henderson walk and Keim single. However, the Bears would pop up the sacrifice bunt attempt in the next at-bat before a double play ended SSU's hope of further extending the game.
Williams took the loss despite allowing just two runs, only one of which was earned, during his six innings of work. Cumberland's Kevin P. Greene picked up the win after throwing 6.2 shutout innings in relief.
The Bears and Bulldogs will conclude the series with a doubleheader tomorrow. The first game is set to start at noon.