PORTSMOUTH – Baseball got back on the winning path in Mid-South Conference play in a dramatic comeback on Friday against the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.). The Bears (21-17, 5-8) snapped a three-game losing streak in conference play by scoring five runs in the eighth inning to help defeat the Patriots (19-13, 4-9) 9-8 in the series-opener. The big inning was capped off by Tyler Bice's two-out RBI single which scored the go-ahead by Todd Queener.
With the win, Shawnee State moved to 13-10 at Branch Rickey Park, snapping a three-game home losing streak. For the Bears, it was their 11th win after being tied or trailing entering the sixth inning this season as playing from behind has become a common theme.
Playing a nine inning game, Cumberlands scored first with a two-out bases loaded walk to take a 1-0 lead. However, the Bears came right back as Bice singled to second base to start the bottom half of the first. Joe Henderson (2-for-5) followed with a single to advance Bice to third before Colin Keim (1-for-3) hit a sacrifice fly ball to score Bice to tie the game at 1-1.
The Patriots would answer the call quickly as Jake Goodman hit a homerun over the center field fence to hand Cumberlands a 2-1 lead over the Bears. It would be the last time the Patriots would score over a three inning period as starting pitcher Cody Strayer tossed three consecutive innings (3-5) allowing only two hits over the three innings.
Strayer finished the game throwing 5.1 innings allowing five runs –four earned – on eight hits while striking out four batters.
Trailing for most of the game, the Bears tied the game up once more in the bottom of the fourth. Down 2-1, Shawnee State's Henderson stretched a single into a double. The hustle paid off in the end as Keim followed with a single setting up Cody Spires. Spires hit a deep fly ball to center field, scoring Henderson to tie the game at 2-all in the fourth.
After both teams would go scoreless in the fifth the Patriots then went on to score six runs over the next three innings as the Bears faced their biggest deficit of the entire game, 8-4 entering the bottom half of the eighth.
After back-to-back singles from Spires and Jake Lankheit (2-for-4), Daniel Katayama loaded the bases after being hit from a pitch with one-out. After pinch hitter Aaron Suydam struck out, senior Jordan Maier reached first base from a throwing error scoring two runs to cut the deficit in half, 8-6. With momentum on their side T. Queener (3-for-5) hit a base clearing triple down the right field line to tie the game at 8-all.
With Queener standing 90 feet away from home plate Bice dug into the batter's box and delivered. Bice, who finished the day going 4-for-5 with two RBI's and two runs scored, took a 2-2 fastball and drove it to right field to score Queener for the go-ahead winning run.
Three Bears came onto relief for Staryer including Taylor Smith (2-0). Smith picked up his second win of the season by throwing an inning allowing two unearned runs on one hit. Brandon Bonar also came into relief throwing 1.2 innings allowing one run on two hits.
Leading 9-8 entering the ninth, the Bears turned to Jordan Williams to shut down the Patriots. Williams (5) picked up the save by retired the side completing the come-from-behind victory over the University of the Cumberlands.
The Bears and Patriots will be back in action on Saturday, March 30 at Branch Rickey Park in a doubleheader. The first game is scheduled to start at noon with game two following the first. It will mark the last day the Bears will play a home conference game until the season finale against St. Catharine College on April 19-20.