Shenandoah’s bats stay hot in rout of Royals

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s baseball team kept its hot streak at the plate rolling on Thursday evening against visiting Eastern Mennonite University at Bridgeforth Field.

The Hornets slugged 22 hits against EMU — including seven for extra bases — as they rolled to an easy 21-6 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory.

SU, which has now won six straight games and is currently ranked 18th in the top 25 poll, has scored 12 or more runs in five straight.

“A lot of hitting is contagious, and right now a lot of guys have really made some positive adjustments. Getting their front side down early, working on staying through the baseball,” Hornets head coach Kevin Anderson said. “All the credit goes to coach [Bruce] Cameron and what he does with our hitters mentally and physically, and to our guys for being receptive and making adjustments.”

Shenandoah (13-2, 8-0 ODAC) was kept quiet in the first two innings, as Royals starter Kyle Armstrong — backed by a pair of solid defensive plays — held the Hornets to just one hit in the first two frames. EMU (12-9, 0-6) then struck first by scoring four runs in the top of the third inning.

Royals No. 9 hitter Griffin Stanley led off the inning with a walk against Shenandoah starter Eric Liskey, and Stanley came around to score two batters later on a fielder’s choice on a bunt by Ryan McAlister.

Another fielder’s choice and an SU error loaded the bases for the Royals with one out, and third baseman Brandon Carroll delivered a two-run single up the middle. Righty Matthew Wilson came on to relieve Liskey and surrendered an RBI single to Kyle Mathews before escaping further damage.

“It was pretty obvious that we came out pretty flat to start,” said Hornets third baseman Michael Paul. “We did it in the Hampden-Sydney game when we went down 5-0, we did it against Cortland State. We’re just coming up big and responding to everybody. If they’re scoring on us, we come right back.”

Shenandoah responded in a big way in the bottom of the third, as the Hornets scored eight runs on eight hits, including four for extra bases.

Bittner and Lew Johnson led off the frame with a double and single, respectively, and leadoff man Billy Arens (3-for-4, five runs scored) plated SU’s first run of the night with an RBI double. J.J. McDaniel followed with a two-run double to right field, and Corbin Lucas tripled to right-center to tie the game at 4-4 and force a pitching change for EMU.

“As manager and head coach, I was really happy with the way that we went the other way,” Anderson said. “Our right handers were staying behind the baseball and getting on top and driving the baseball the other way. Our situational hitting was good. We put some charges in some baseballs.”

Paul and Nolan Overby each hit RBI singles off Royals reliever Austin Marzullo in the third, and Shenandoah scored two more runs on an EMU throwing error to take an 8-4 lead.

The Royals added two more runs in the top of the fourth on RBI singles by Stanley (2-for-3, RBI, two runs scored) and Adam Posey (3-for-3), but Shenandoah answered with four more runs in the bottom of the inning on two-RBI hits by Paul and Overby.

“That’s kind of been our story of late,” said Royals head coach Ben Spotts, whose team used seven different pitchers on Thursday. “We got off to a good start this season and were trying to teach our guys what it takes to win and things like that. The last four games … have been a challenge for us, particularly on the mound. We’ve gotten ourselves in a hole early and we’re not super deep there right now.”

Shenandoah added four more runs in the fifth inning — two on a home run by Dan Powers — two in the sixth and three in the seventh.

The Hornets’ three, four and five hitters — McDaniel (4-for-5, three doubles), Lucas (2-for-5) and Paul (3-for-5) — finished the game with four RBIs apiece.

Hornets’ lefty reliever Andrew Zarobila, who came on to start the fifth inning, tossed five scoreless innings to earn his first win of the season. Zarobila allowed five hits and struck out four.

“He was just throwing a good two-seam fastball and a nice curveball to different spots,” Anderson said. “He had a lot of confidence in his changeup. I think when you break down the 15 outs that he got, it was almost 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 between the fastball, the changeup and the breaking ball. And that’s a sign of a seasoned veteran, like he is.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD