Late runs decide Longwood doubleheader split at Charleston Southern
Late runs proved to be the difference in a tight doubleheader split between Longwood baseball and Charleston Southern as the two teams wrapped up their conference-opening series on Saturday afternoon.
In game one, persistence paid off for Longwood (5-6, 1-2 Big South) as they rallied past the Buccaneers to win 10-8 thanks to six runs in the final three innings. Charleston Southern (2-4, 2-1 Big South) flipped the script in game two, however, plating four runs to Longwood’s three over the final three innings to take the game 6-5 and clinch the series.
Hayden Harris led the charge on offense for a Longwood squad that never quit. The Lancers put together rallies in both games and scored a total of nine runs between the seventh and ninth inning on the day. In the first game, Harris helped jumpstart the offense with crucial base hits in both the seventh and eighth innings to give the team a chance to tie late, and he executed a perfect squeeze play in game two that gave Longwood its last lead.
On the day, he went 4-5 at the plate while touching home three times, driving in two more, doubling and drawing three walks. Hunter Gilliam and Ricky Jimenez each had three base knocks, with Gilliam scoring three times and adding two RBI. Jimenez poked in the go-ahead runs with a clutch base hit in the ninth in game one.
“Harris had a great day for us at the plate, and Jimenez delivered the clutch hit for us in the ninth of game one,” said Longwood head coach Ryan Mau. “We knew going into this series that we would be missing some key pieces, but I was impressed with our toughness and fight throughout the weekend.”
Game 1: Longwood 10, Charleston Southern 8
After slowly trimming a three-run deficit to 7-6 entering the ninth inning of the first game, Longwood proceeded to load the bases with nobody out thanks to walks by Cullan Wadsworth and Jack Schnell while Hunter Gilliam was hit by a pitch. Jimenez then cranked a two-run single to the outfield to give Longwod an 8-7 lead. Two more runs touched home as the team drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks a few batters later to push the lead to 10-7.
Logan Berrier came on and closed it out in the bottom half of the ninth to earn his first career save, working around an error that led to an unearned run. He struck out one in his inning of work.
A disastrous sixth inning saw Charleston Southern rip off seven runs and take a 7-4 lead, but Harris got Longwood back on track in the top of the seventh. He singled and scored two batters later on Wadsworth’s RBI fielder’s choice to trim the lead to two. In the eighth inning, Harris swatted an RBI double down the left field line that trimmed the lead to one.
On the mound, the Lancer bullpen came on and executed on the back end of the game over the final three innings. Matt Shobe came on as a fireman in the sixth and escaped a jam after CSU had already scored seven runs on a mix of timely hits and costly Longwood errors. He did not surrender a run in 1.2 innings while striking out one, pitching into the eighth. Nathaniel Brezner-Mendoza and Lloyd Dominguez each took care of business against the batter they faced to end the eighth, with Dominguez (1-0) earning credit for the win.
At the start of the game, sophomore starter Andrew Melnyk pitched into the sixth and cruised through the first five innings. He only gave up two hits and a walk through those five innings before running into trouble in the sixth inning. The big left-hander struck out three and was charged with five runs, four earned, with all of the runs happening in the sixth.
“Melnyk gave us a really good start in game one,” Mau said. “The wheels came off defensively in the sixth, but we continued to fight. Berrier really stepped up for us and did a great job closing it out.”
Hunter McIntosh (0-1) took the loss for Charleston Southern on the mound.
Game 2: Charleston Southern 6, Longwood 5
The back and forth day continued in game two, with Charleston Southern using an early two-run double to take a 2-0 lead after two innings.
As they did in game one, Longwood bounced back and evened the score. Four straight singles from Gilliam, Jimenez, Nate Blakeney and Andrew Gorham loaded the bases and scored a run, and the Lancers added another despite hitting into a double play to make it 2-2.
Freshman starter Dylan Saale found a rhythm after the second inning, and the right-hander cruised until the fifth inning when Charleston Southern loaded the bases. Saale escaped the jam and pitched into the seventh inning in his longest outing for Longwood. He struck out a career best seven in the no-decision, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks in his finest start.
The Lancer offense loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, and Gilliam delivered with a single through the left side that scored two and gave Longwood its first lead of the game at 4-2.
Charleston Southern had the answer in their half of the seventh, with an infield single by Tyrell Brewer cutting Longwood’s lead to 4-3. Johnny Oliveira tied it with an RBI single up the middle.
Harris put Longwood back up in the eighth with a perfectly executed squeeze play that brought home Michael Dolberry from third for a 5-4 lead, but it wouldn’t last. Connor Aldrich doubled home the tying run, and Dylan Stewart knocked a sacrifice fly to the outfield for the go-ahead score.
“Saale was outstanding and gave us everything he had,” Mau said. “We executed some late game situations well and put ourselves in position to win that game. Unfortunately, CSU came up with a few more timely hits to steal one from us late.”
Kyle Sandstrom (1-0) earned the win for Charleston Southern after coming on in the eighth inning in relief. He struck out two and walked one in two scoreless innings.
Trey Tiffany (0-1) took the loss for Longwood. The sophomore was touched up for two runs on a pair of hits and a walk in the eighth after recording the final out of the seventh.
The Lancers then head out to Norfolk State on Tuesday, March 9 for a non-conference midweek test and the team’s fourth straight on the road. First pitch in Norfolk is set for 4 p.m.