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While it may be the season for spring cleaning, the defense of the Barton College baseball team did not receive the memo during Friday night’s NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas series opener against Erskine College in Fleming Stadium.
Instead, the Bulldogs were guilty of five errors, which led to six unearned runs for the Flying Fleet en route to an 8-5 Barton defeat. The result allowed Erskine to climb above Barton by percentage points for third place in the conference standings, improving to 21-16 overall and 10-7 in league play. Barton slipped into fourth, dropping to 23-16 in all games and 11-8 within the conference in a nine-inning game that sputtered all of 3 hours, 40 minutes.
“We played very poorly tonight in all three phases,” Barton head coach Jim Chester said. “I didn’t think we pitched very well. I don’t know the numbers, but between walks (four) and hit by pitches (three), we weren’t in a good place. We made five errors on defense and we struck out 12 times at the plate. You’re not going to win many games with those numbers.”
Perhaps the most painful encapsulation of Barton’s defensive adventures came in the fifth inning off the bat of Erskine’s Trevor Lesane.
With one out, Lesane sent a pop fly in the direction of Barton shortstop JoJo Allen with the bases loaded. The field umpire ruled an infield fly for the second out, but the ball bounded off Allen’s glove. Taking the opportunity to advance at his own risk, Drew Yniesta, who reached after being hit by a pitch, touched home after the bobble. Allen was assessed an error on the play as the Flying Fleet used the miscue to go back ahead 4-3.
“That’s maybe a first for me too,” Chester said of the run scoring off the infield fly rule. “That’s just kind of what was going on tonight. Disappointed from a coaching standpoint, but the beauty of this is, the sun comes up tomorrow and we get a chance to win the series.”
Senior Chase Long, a Hunt High product, was tagged with the loss in relief for the Bulldogs after retiring just one batter in the top of the sixth. With the game tied a 4, Long hit Erskine’s No. 9 batter in Justin Fox and promptly allowed him to take third after a failed pickoff attempt careened into Fleming’s cavernous foul ground.
Cory Everett’s single into left field plated Long and put the Flying Fleet up 5-4.
Trailing by two in the seventh, Barton pulled one back after freshman Jacob Marcos singled and moved to second after senior Troy Maslowski beat out a tag on a bunt. Marcos came around to score on a throwing error off the bat of senior Hunter Pearre.
However, Erskine plated two additional unearned runs to cap the scoring in the ninth. Lesane reached on a two-base error with one out, and run-scoring singles from designated hitter Trevor Wood and Fox left Barton down by three.
The Bulldogs, after leaving a pair of runners at the corners in eighth following a two-out pinch-hit double by junior Chase Riker, were retired in order in the ninth. Zach Farmer pitched the final three innings for Erskine to earn his first save. Zach Bowers tossed six innings and struck out eight for the Fleet in improving to 4-1.
Pinch hitter Lucas Karz had a key two-out RBI off the bench in the seventh from the No. 8 spot.
“We’ve got some depth on our bench,” Erskine head coach Mark Crocco said. “Offensively, that’s been one of our strengths, and I have a couple of guys I was able to plug in to certain spots, Lucas Karz in particular, to get ahead by two runs.”
Barton, which was outhit 12-8, sent six pitchers to the mound in the series opener. Senior right-hander Dylan Ward started and went four-plus innings, striking out six and walking two. Yet Ward was a casualty of his defense, as only one of his four runs allowed were earned.
Maslowski was the only Bulldog with more than one hit, going 2 for 5. Senior Gatlin Pate hit his fifth home run of the year in the fourth inning with a solo shot over the left-field wall.
But despite being in the game with its mistakes, Barton simply made too many.
“We had a chance to win the game,” Chester said. “We just had a couple miscues that were very, very costly and we played a pretty good team tonight that took advantage of our mistakes.”
The teams conclude the series Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at noon at Nixon Field.
Score by innings:
Erskine 000 221 102 — 8
Barton 001 210 100 — 5
WP-Zack Bowers (4-1) 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO. LP-Chase Long (1-1) 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO. S- Zach Farmer (1) 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO.
LEADING HITTERS —Erskine: Drew Yniesta 2-2, Nick Vella 2-4, 2 RBI, 2B, Justin Fox 2-4, RBI; Barton: Troy Maslowski 2-5, RBI, Noah Almond 1-3, 2B, Gatlin Pate 1-4, HR, RBI.