Hornets run winning streak to 11 games with victory over Bridgewater

Shenandoah University's Keegan Woolford slides under Bridgewater's Michael Morgan during a second base steal attempt during seventh inning action Tuesday evening at Bridgeforth Field in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – Blowout victories have become a regular occurrence for Shenandoah University’s baseball team over the last two weeks. Tuesday’s home meeting with Bridgewater College was one of the few nail-biters sprinkled into the Hornets’ current winning streak.

Eagles starting pitcher Chad Lenz kept SU off-balance at the plate for much of the contest, but the Hornets rewarded a gutsy pitching performance from senior right-hander Michael Bugonowicz with a trio of late runs in a 6-3 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory at Bridgeforth Field.

The win pushed SU’s win streak to 11 straight.

Shenandoah, which entered the game averaging over 12 runs per game during its streak, struck out 11 times against Lenz but broke a 3-3 tie with a pair of runs off the senior left-hander in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“There’s days where you’ll put up 15 (runs), there’s days where you’ll put up four. But it’s our job to go out there and throw up zeroes,” said Bugonowicz, who went 7 1/3 innings to pick up his fourth victory of the season. “Our offense did their job, I did my job and it got us a win.”

Shenandoah's Luke Nussman, left, and Robert Marcelle, right, celebrate after scoring during seventh inning action Tuesday evening against Bridgewater. Rich Cooley/Daily

The No. 18 Hornets (21-6, 9-3 ODAC) spoiled Lenz’s own solid outing with some timely hitting in the seventh inning during a rally that began with back-to-back first-pitch, one-out singles by second baseman Tristan Baker and shortstop Robbie Marcelle.

A wild pitch to SU cleanup man Keegan Woolford moved both runners into scoring position, and the Hornet slugger – who entered the game as the ODAC leader in RBIs – drove in the go-ahead run with a swinging-bunt single on a full-count offering from Lenz.

Luke Nussman’s sacrifice fly to deep right gave the Hornets a 5-3 lead before Lenz picked up his final strikeout of the night to end the frame.

“Our guys pride themselves on situational baseball. We didn’t execute small ball as well as we normally do, but we ran the bases extremely aggressive, took some extra bases,” said SU head coach Kevin Anderson, whose team stole six bases.

“Lenz was throwing four pitches for strikes, keeping them off-balance. He was making us chase down in the zone and we were fortunate to get a couple runs off him.”

Shenandoah University's Jamie Naill slides safely into second during a steal attempt as Bridgewater's Michael Morgan leaps to catch the throw during fourth inning action Tuesday evening at Bridgeforth Field in Winchester. Naill was safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Hornets added an insurance run in the eighth on Henry Delavergne’s RBI single off Bridgewater reliever Jordan Showalter before the Eagles made things interesting in the ninth.

After stranding two runners in scoring position following a nice over-the-shoulder grab by Shenandoah left fielder Nick Goode in the top of the eighth, Bridgewater (16-13-1, 5-9) loaded the bases for the top of the order with no outs in the ninth after a Brett Jones single, an SU error and a walk.

Hornets reliever Derrick Snider made a nice defensive play for the inning’s first out when he charged off the mound to field a dribbler down the third-base line and flipped to catcher Chase Smallwood for the force out at home.

SU reliever Tyler Ritenour, a Skyline High School graduate, then came in to face Bridgewater’s Jacob Grabeel, and the junior sidearmer needed only three pitches to induce the game-ending 4-6-3 double play to earn his third save of the season.

“The biggest thing is just trusting my stuff,” Ritenour said. “My ball has a lot of movement, just come in and pound the zone. Tough arm angle for hitters, so just trusting my stuff and throwing strikes and having faith in my defense to make big plays behind me.”

Shenandoah University's Chase Smallwood, left, is congratulated at the plate by teammate Luke Nussman after Smallwood scored during third inning action Tuesday night. Rich Cooley/Daily

Ritenour’s save preserved the second straight quality outing from Bugonowicz, who allowed three earned runs on eight hits and a hit batter while striking out eight to improve his record to 4-1. He threw 127 pitches before being pulled with one out and two on in the eighth.

“He’s a bulldog, man,” Anderson said of Bugonowicz, who tossed a complete game in a 4-1 win over Washington and Lee in his last start on April 3.

“Each time he gets the baseball, even if he doesn’t have good stuff, he’s just gonna give you everything he has and compete. He’s normally a four-pitch pitcher. Today he didn’t have his slider, so we ditched it. We went with three pitches and he still did a good job keeping them off-balance. … He’s always in command out there. He doesn’t get rattled.”

Jones, who had three hits and drove in all three of Bridgewater’s runs, gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead with an RBI single off Bugonowicz in the top of the second inning. Jones’ two-run homer  to left, his fifth of the season, tied the game at 3-3 in the fourth inning.

Bugonowicz retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced after giving up the homer. He was pulled after plunking Chris King on a 1-2 pitch and allowing a one-out single to Luke Paczewski in the eighth.

Shenandoah University pitcher Michael Bugonowicz fires a pitch during the Hornets' game against Bridgewater Tuesday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It was a game of adjustments. In between innings I talked to coach Anderson (about) things we could make quick adjustments on that helped us throughout the ballgame. That’s pretty much how I got stronger throughout the game,” said Bugonowicz, who threw 85 of his 127 pitches for strikes.

“It was a little bit of everything early on. A couple mistake pitches, I left a changeup up in the zone. My curveball got me out of a lot of situations early and then we used that later in the game and it got us into the seventh.”

Marcelle gave Shenandoah its first lead of the game with his two-run single off Lenz in the third. Nussman, the ODAC Player of the Week, added an RBI single two batters later to give the Hornets a 3-1 lead.

Lenz – who was charged with five runs (three earned) on nine hits and two walks – blanked Shenandoah over the next three innings before hitting trouble in the seventh.

The Hornets stranded eight runners on base, including five in scoring position, and didn’t have an extra-base hit in the win.

Bridgewater right fielder Chris King just misses a diving catch for a fly ball during third inning action Tuesday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I would say (Lenz’s) changeup was definitely his best pitch. It was his go-to,” said Marcelle, who finished with a pair of hits, two RBIs and two stolen bases and scored twice. “His curveball was OK, his fastball not too overpowering but his changeup was his go-to.”

Nussman (two RBIs) and Smallwood each had two hits for the Hornets, who return to action at Elizabethtown on Wednesday.

Shenandoah University's Nick Goode makes a catch at the fence that saved a pair of potential runs for Bridgewater during the eighth inning Tuesday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily