Butler baseball successful in first half of spring break play

PHILIP TOR | STAFF REPORTER | ptor@butler.edu

The Butler University baseball team has found success early on in their 2016 Spring Break trip. Fresh off a 15-4 win against Marian University, head coach Steve Farley lead his Bulldogs down south to play Northwestern University, Indiana University and Boston College back to back to back.

These games were great chances to give the Bulldogs key experience and good competition to prepare for Big East conference play.  All three games were played in Port Charlotte, Florida, as part of the Snowbird Classic Tournament.

Game one of the trip was a matchup with Northwestern University of the Big 10 conference. The Bulldogs sent ace Jeff Schank to the mound to try and halt the Wildcats’ offense. The Bulldogs offense came out firing as they took a 5-1 lead in the top of the third, thanks to a two-RBI triple by Gehrig Parker that scored Tyler Houston and Jordan Lucio. Schank pitched five strong innings allowing only 3 ER on eight hits while also striking out four batters.

The Bulldogs carried a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning before the Wildcats made their comeback. Northwestern hit their way past relief  pitcher Brock Balderson as he surrendered three runs in only 0.2 innings of work. Freshman Quentin Miller came in relief of Balderson and pitched 2.1 brilliant innings allowing only one run on two hits.

Thanks to Miller’s arm and two RBI’s from freshman Connor Dall, Butler led 9-7 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. The Bulldogs called upon Zach Barnes to close out the game. Northwestern answered in the bottom of the ninth with two runs on three hits, including the game-tying double by Northwestern’s Matt Hopfner. With no outs in the inning, Barnes rallied, striking out the next three batters in a row to force extra innings.

The Bulldogs kept it short and sweet as Northwestern pitchers walked the first three batters, loading the bases. The next batter was Lucio who recorded the game winning RBI on a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Nick Bartolone. Barnes came back out for the 10th inning and got the save, getting the final two outs on a routine double play.

The win improved their record to 3-7. Parker was the offensive star of the day going 4-5 with two RBI. Dall also performed well, going 2-4 with two RBIs both coming late in the game. Barnes got the win for the Dawgs, earning his first collegiate win.

The second game on the trip matched the Bulldogs up with in-state rival Indiana University. The game did not see a lot of action as the teams combined for only three runs on 13 hits.

Indiana jumped out to the early lead in the bottom of the second as center fielder Craig Dedelow scored on a fielder’s choice. Other than that, Bulldog starter Nick Morton shut down an impressive Indiana offense that was amongst the best in the Big 10 last season. Morton pitched a masterful eight full innings giving up one run on six hits while throwing 99 pitches.

Butler tied the game up in the top of the eighth as Drew Small scored on a Houston single up the middle to center field. Houston registered the only RBI for the Bulldogs and led them offensively as he went 2-4 with two singles and the lone RBI.

The game stayed knotted up until the bottom of the ninth when Indiana scored the game winning run on an error by Small. Morton was replaced by Josh Goldberg in the ninth who struck out the leadoff batter then began to fall apart. The next IU batter slapped a single down the left side, and the next batter was hit by a pitch putting two runners on with one out. Tyler Rathjen came in to relieve Goldberg, but the move proved to be pointless as the next IU batter reached on an error that forced in the game winning run.

Goldberg was handed the loss even though the final run was unearned. The loss snapped the Dawgs short three-game winning streak but would not lower morale whatsoever.

In game three, Butler battled ACC opponent Boston College. This game was an offensive explosion as the teams combined for 22 runs on 30 hits in the contest.

Butler starter Danny Pobereyko outdueled opposing starter Thomas Lane, as Pobereyko allowed eight runs on 10 hits in five full innings of work. Lane, however, only lasted two full innings letting up five ER on seven hits on only 46 pitches.

The second inning was a back and forth as Boston College jumped out first, scoring four runs in the top half of the frame. Butler raced backed in front in the bottom half, scoring five runs on seven hits while batting around the order. Catcher Chris Marras got the inning started with a single to center followed by three straight singles by teammates Michael Hartnagel, Small and Parker.

Houston then strolled up to the dish with the bases loaded and two outs. He smashed a triple to the left-center gap, emptying the bases and tallying up three RBIs on the hit. Lucio was next up and singled to bring Houston home. The Bulldogs took a 5-4 lead to end the inning.

The fourth inning could have also been called a hit parade as both teams put up huge numbers in the inning. Boston College took back the lead, putting up three runs on three hits. Butler started the bottom half of the inning down 7-5, but the lead would not hold up for long. Small led off the inning with a double to left field and would score on the very next play as Parker hit a single up the middle. Houston followed up with a single, then Lucio smashed a ground-rule double to deep left, scoring Parker.

After a Boston College pitching change, Houston scored on a wild pitch putting the Bulldogs back in the lead at 8-7. The scoring did not stop there, as Boston College would walk the next two Butler batters, but would get Marras to ground into a double play that scored Lucio.

Garrett Christman would then walk and steal second, then advance to third on a passed ball that Maranto would also score on. This set up Hartnagel, who would double down the left field line, bringing home Christman. Small would end the action with a single to center to score Hartnagel.

The Bulldogs batted around the order successfully for the second time in the contest and take control of the game 12-7. The Eagles would battle back scoring two runs of relief pitcher Rathjen, but were silenced by Balderson and Barnes, who earned his first save of the season.

Lucio and Small were swinging the bats great on Monday as they both went 3-5. Both players also had two RBIs in the game. Houston also had a fantastic game going 2-4 with three RBIs. Houston is leading the Dawgs in average (.356), hits (16), and OBP (.412) through the first 11 games this season.

Butler handed the Eagles (9-2) only their second loss of the season, and improved their own record to 4-7 on the season. The Bulldogs are back in action on March 9 when they take on Central Michigan University.