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Barton College scored first.
But after the bottom of the first inning, the visiting Chowan University baseball team scored often enough to post a 6-2 NCAA Division II nonconference victory on the sun-splashed Nixon Field diamond Tuesday afternoon.
The Hawks, independent after the Div. II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association dropped baseball last summer, tagged nine Barton pitchers for 12 hits and at least a run in five different innings in claiming their sixth win against nine losses and a tie. Barton, which utilized seven pitchers for the third game in the last five, dropped to 7-11.
The Bulldogs of Conference Carolinas worked nine pitchers an inning each for the second time and first-year head coach Jim Chester indicated opponents haven’t seen the last of the approach.
“Currently, we haven’t determined a No. 3 starter,” Chester explained. “It’s a matter of finding a starter and building confidence. We won doing it last week against Winston-Salem State and we had a chance to win (against King University last Sunday). It worked fairly well today; it gave us a chance to win the game. As long as it continues to give us a chance to win, we’re going to keep doing it.”
Chester sent freshman Mason Cooper, junior Dylan Ward, freshman Alex Hart, junior Chase Long, Ryan Pifer, freshman Clay Walters, sophomore Landry Moore, Clint Marsh and senior ace right-hander Trent Fennell to the mound.
Cooper, who got the start, Pifer, Moore and Fennell each worked a scoreless inning, but none retired the Hawks in order. Hart, who pitched the third, took the loss.
Long, a right-hander from Hunt High, came within a balk call of working out of a big-time jam in the fourth inning. With Chowan base runners stationed at first and third and no outs, Long registered back-to-back strikeouts. But the base runner at third was awarded home plate on a balk. After a walk, Long ended the inning with an infield fly.
“I licked my fingertips,” Long said. “I didn’t know that I had balked. But when the umpire told me what I did ....”
Barton’s pitching approach was one that Chowan hitters didn’t prefer.
“It’s tough,” assured assistant coach Bryan Hill, who will function as the Wilson Tobs head coach in the Coastal Plain League this summer. “You just treat each inning like the first inning. You try to see as many pitches as you can without being passive. You have to be smart selective.”
Second baseman Julian Lopez responded with a 3-for-3 performance, while center fielder Anthony Jefferson batted 3 for 5.
The Hawks plated a run in each of the second, third and fourth innings — when the lead-off hitter reached base in each inning. First baseman Nick Rose drilled a two-run single in the sixth and left fielder Harry Markotay capped Chowan’s scoring with an eighth-inning solo homer, a mammoth blast high over the left-field fence.
In the meantime, Hawks left-handers Ryan Gallaccio, a freshman and Will Edwards, a senior from Rocky Mount High, stopped the Bulldogs on six hits.
In the first, Barton took a 1-0 lead when lead-off hitter and second baseman Ricks Dearing doubled and eventually scored on junior first baseman Chase Riker’s sacrifice fly.
The Bulldogs added an unearned run in the ninth. Senior left fielder Rich Trifaro walked with one out. With two outs, Dearing lined a shot off pitcher Edwards’ glove hand. Edwards scrambled to retrieve the baseball and Trifaro scored when Edwards threw wildly to first base.
Hill iterated the fact the Hawks of head coach Jim Furlough committed three errors, but admitted: “(Galluccio) absolutely did a great job. It was a solid all-around performance. We grinded it out and battled — but I still don’t like the three errors.”
From Barton’s standpoint, Chester remarked: “Every loss is tough to handle, but I am still very confident in our young group. Like any coach, I would like to see more progress, but it does look like we might have played 10-11 freshmen today.”
Long, a converted catcher, looks forward to staying healthy and throwing plentiful innings in his second season as a pitcher. But he is comfortable with working an inning — if necessary.
“I just have to go out there, do what I do best and throw as hard as I can,” he reasoned. “If I can get a shutout inning, maybe that will be the inning that decides the game.”