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The Barton College baseball team’s 6-4 victory against Queens University, a first-year NCAA Division II program from Charlotte, on a breezy Wednesday afternoon on the Nixon Field diamond might be viewed as a testament that the hungry-to-win Bulldogs are learning patience and a willingness to grind.
The Royals, coached by Jack McDowell, the American League Cy Young Award winner with the Chicago White Sox in 1993, surprised Barton with six solid innings that produced a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.
But Queens’ defensive execution finally cracked. The Bulldogs of second-year head coach Jim Chester capitalized on two errors for three runs and then added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth.
The fifth triumph in its last six games lifted Barton of the Division II Conference Carolinas to 5-4, while Queens of the South Atlantic Conference dropped to 2-7.
“The difference was that we played fundamental baseball a little more than they did,” contended Chester. “We executed. I was extremely impressed with Queens as a first-year team. But with a former Cy Young winner at the helm, you can probably get a player or two.”
Added batting star and senior outfielder Hunter Pearre: “They were a quality opponent — definitely a better team than a lot of first-year programs we’ve seen.
“We did a good job of not panicking late in the game. Unlike last year (Barton won 12 games), we are finding a way to win and not finding a way to lose.”
Chester cited a pair of tell-tale plays.
In the three-run seventh, lead-off hitter and freshman center fielder Jacob Marcos put down a sacrifice bunt and Barton scored a run on the play as the result of a wild throw to first base.
In the top of the third inning with two outs, Queens junior catcher Ryan Dudney slammed a triple. He attempted to continue home on an errant throw past third base. However, Chester credited senior pitcher Dylan Ward with being in the right position in backing up the play. Ward fielded the wild throw and threw out Dudney at the plate.
“The biggest difference this year from last year,” Chester explained, “is that we found a small crack and took advantage.”
Losing freshman right-hander Lee Harrison, the third Queens pitcher, found himself in trouble in the seventh when an error and walk opened the inning. After the second error, Pearre’s single drove in a run and Marcos raced home with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
“I had to keep grinding in my previous at-bat,” Pearre noted, “and I was hunting a first-pitch fastball. I figured (Harrison) might challenge me. It came in there; I was on time; and, luckily, it went through.”
The Bulldogs added two runs in the eighth, when senior right fielder Troy Maslowski led off with a double; senior designated hitter Juan Martinez drew a walk; and Marcos delivered a two-run single with two outs.
Barton sophomore left-hander Clay Walters pitched around freshman second baseman Jaret Laziak’s one-out double in the top of the seventh to notch the win. Freshman left-hander Connor Patterson survived two walks in the eighth and, after yielding an RBI single to sophomore shortstop Dominic Ford in the ninth, retired the next two batters to post the save.
Maslowski laced three hits for the Bulldogs, while Marcos and Pearre each collected a pair. Dudney pounded a triple and double for the Royals, while center fielder C.J. Hammonds, a junior, staked Queens to a 3-1 lead with a two-run home run off freshman Donovan Waitman, the fourth of six Barton pitchers, in the top of the sixth.
Each team plated a run in the third. Pearre blooped an RBI single for Barton. Freshman left fielder Noah Jones’ infield grounder drove in the Queens run against Ward.
Hammonds, who acknowledges he transferred to Queens from Southeastern Community College because of McDowell and hails McDowell as the best coach for which he has ever played, admitted: “This would have been a great win for us. But it’s part of a learning curve. We have a lot of freshmen. We have a lot of young talent and this program is going to do good things in the future.”
Chester explained he opted for the pitcher-by-committee route as the result of being in need of a fourth starter and wanting to keep his pitchers as fresh as possible for four scheduled games at Nixon Field over the weekend.
The first of two scheduled doubleheaders with Mercy has been moved to 12:30 p.m. Friday. Chester said the remaining twinbill or two games will be contingent upon the weather Saturday and Sunday.