By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University broke out the bats early in Tuesday's non-conference matchup with Dickinson College, and the Hornets were able to hold off a late rally by the Red Devils to escape with a 12-11 victory.
The No. 23-ranked Hornets erupted for 11 runs through the first five innings of the contest, powered by three home runs, and took an 11-4 lead into the seventh inning. Dickinson (2-1) responded with an offensive explosion of its own as the Red Devils tallied seven runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined, but Shenandoah was able to close the door in the top of the ninth to avoid a late-game collapse.
"That was a hard-fought baseball game by two good baseball teams," Hornets coach Kevin Anderson said. "We're fortunate to come out on top by a run."
After Shenandoah starter Jeff Stanek sat the Red Devils down in order to open the game, Joey Donofrio got the Hornets' offense going in the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff single. Dickinson starter Ryan Kramer retired the next two Hornets hitters, but then issued back-to-back walks to Cory Nelson and Nick Beall to load the bases for catcher Tucker Brown.
Brown worked the count to 3-1 before Kramer grooved a fastball down the heart of the plate, and Brown took advantage of the opportunity, sending the pitch sailing over the left-field fence for a towering grand slam to give Shenandoah a quick 4-0 lead.
"When I was on deck, I was just trying to get a feel for [Kramer]. I knew he was just going to give me that one pitch, and it was just a matter of when, and I had to take advantage of it when it got to me," Brown said. "It felt good off the bat. It set the tone, gave us a 4-0 lead."
Dickinson answered with a three-run second inning that included a two-run homer by Mike Adams, but Donofrio pulled momentum right back to Shenandoah when he led off the bottom of the second with a home run to right field.
Three batters later, Nelson belted a shot to deep center that was misplayed by Red Devils center fielder Andrew Sterling, resulting in a two-run triple for Nelson.
Nelson added a two-run homer to left-center in the bottom of the fourth inning to give the Hornets a 9-4 lead, and the senior first baseman finished 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs, and was a single shy of hitting for the cycle.
"We were just trying to drive balls in the gap all day, just taking good swings and trying to get runs on the board," Nelson said.
Dickinson, which hadn't played a game since a season-opening doubleheader on Feb. 26, finally found consistency at the plate in the seventh inning.
Jordan Kaufman singled to open the frame, and Matt Tuneski followed with a double to left field to put runners on second and third for the Red Devils with no outs. Stanek got Adams to strike out looking in the next at-bat before Anderson pulled Stanek in favor of Patrick Moore.
Moore surrendered a single to No. 9 hitter Joseph Tursi that plated two runs, and Tursi later scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 12-7.
"I think early on our timing was a little off -- a little rustiness showed, and I think towards the end of the game we got back into it a little bit," said Red Devils coach Craig Hanson. "Our timing got better -- it was sort of 'See ball, hit ball' and not thinking too much, putting good swings in hitter's counts."
Shenandoah freshman Adam Emerson, who is the Hornets' full-time closer with All-American Kyle Scallion out with an injury, took the mound in the eighth inning and surrendered four runs on just two hits while struggling to find the strike zone.
With the Hornets clinging to a 12-11 lead, Emerson opened the ninth inning with a walk to Tyler Rosa, but retired the next three Red Devils batters to seal the Hornets' third straight victory.
"That's tough for a freshman to transition from high school to this level of play," Anderson said. "I hope that what he did there in the ninth inning will give him a boost of confidence, and our players a boost of confidence where they can believe in him to close games."