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After giving up 43 runs over its last two games, the Barton College baseball team pulled an about face Saturday by winning both games of a doubleheader from visiting Belmont Abbey College at Nixon Field.
The Bulldogs won the first game, 7-3 in seven innings, behind a stellar performance by starting pitcher Dylan Ward then claimed the second contest 3-2 to win its third straight NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas series. Barton, ranked No. 8 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Southeast Region poll, improved to 19-11 overall and 7-5 in league play to move into third place. The Crusaders, who bombarded the Bulldogs 22-16 in Friday’s series opener, departed 11-17 and 4-9 in conference play.
Friday’s loss came on the heels of a 21-4 loss at home Tuesday against UNC Pembroke, giving the Bulldogs two of their worst back-to-back losses in recent memory, if not ever.
“Those midweek games can sometimes get away from you – good and bad — and that one did,” Bulldogs head coach Jim Chester said of Tuesday’s game.
In Friday’s game, with a strong wind blowing out, the Crusaders blasted eight home runs in the rout. But the Bulldogs were able to put both games behind them quickly, Chester said.
“We had a great team meeting after the loss on Friday,” the Barton second-year coach said. “I was able to go over some things to help us, I believe, have an idea of what teams need to do to be successful. We exhibit some of those characteristics at certain times and I believe our young men really embraced a lot of that. We were able to come out yesterday and have a really good day of baseball.”
Barton went right to work Saturday, scoring six runs on five hits, a walk and a hit batter in the bottom of the first inning.
Hunter Pearre roped an RBI double before Colby Warren singled in two more runs. Two batters later, sophomore Gatlin Pate unloaded on an offering by Belmont Abbey starter Blake Waldren (0-2) for his third home run of the season, a three-ru n blast.
That was more than enough for Ward, who pitched 5 1/3 innings to get his fourth win without a loss. He gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits and three walks while striking out seven.
Ward exited after giving up an RBI single to Jakob Rolly, who homered twice Friday, in the sixth. First baseman Warren took over on the mound with one out and two on and struck out the next two Abbey batters. He then retired the side in order in the seventh.
“Dylan is starting to regain some of the form that he’s had in the past and I think he’s really starting to develop a work ethic and he’s starting to see some of the fruits of his labor,” Chester said. “The last few times he’s been out on the mound he’s been very good for us. He was outstanding. We really rode him this weekend and the bullpen’s been great, too. Colby Warren has been almost unhittable out of the bullpen.”
Barton added a run in the third on Almond’s team-leading fourth homer of the season.
In the second inning of game 2, the Crusaders scratched out a pair of unearned runs off Bulldogs starting pitcher Jakob Ryan. Barton committed both its errors in the game in the inning.
However, the Abbey lead didn’t last long as the Bulldogs retaliated for three runs in the bottom of third off Crusaders starter Sam High (1-4). Almond led off with a walk, followed by a JoJo Allen single to center field. After Almond moved to third on a fielder’s choice grounder, Marcos laid down a bunt single to score him.
Senior Troy Maslowski bounced an RBI single through the left and, after the second out, Warren punched a single to right field to score Marcos.
A single, a walk and a hit batter by Ryan loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fourth, ending Ryan’s day as Chester summoned sophomore left-hander Alex Hart. The Rolesville High product escaped with no further damage on a strikeout and a 6-4-3 double play, one of two on the day for Barton.
Hart pitched four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and walking two while striking out five as he improved to 2-1. He exited after the seventh in favor of Chase Long, who got two outs but walked two Crusaders. Chester then brought in junior right-hander Frederick May, who retired four of the five batters he faced to earn his second save.
“We had two huge momentum-killing double plays to turn things around and there were some really good efforts on the mound to help keep things where they were at and gave us a chance to win both, which we did,” Chester said.
The Bulldogs visit Queens, a first-year program they beat 6-4 on Feb. 13 in Wilson, on Tuesday and then come back to Nixon Field for a three-game series against King University, which is directly below Barton in the Conference Carolinas standings, starting with a single game Friday.