By: Adam Barnes
Despite winning the first two games of a weekend series with Radford, Gardner-Webb looked sluggish through the first eight innings on Sunday during a 10-4 defeat. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak within conference play for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
With winning the series, Gardner-Webb (27-22, 9-9 Big South Conference) moves into a tie for sixth place in conference standings.
“To be able to come out of this weekend against the second place team and win two out of three is phenomenal” said Gardner-Webb head coach Rusty Stroupe. “We’re looking at it like the whole total sum of the weekend is we basically took care of business.”
The Runnin’ Bulldogs will take a week off for exams before traveling to Presbyterian for another weekend series starting on Friday.
Game One: To begin the weekend series, Radford placed their pitching ace Eddie Butler on their mound, while Gardner-Webb countered with freshman Matt Fraudin. The move proved to be effective for the Runnin’ Bulldogs in a 2-1 victory after 10 innings. Butler, projected to go in the first two rounds of June’s Major League Baseball draft, kept Gardner-Webb quiet offensively as he struck out 10 batters, allowed one run, and scattered seven hits through eight innings.
But Fraudin was up the challenge, as the right-hander also went eight innings with a career-high seven strikeouts and scattering six strikeouts in a no-decision.
After Radford tied the game in the ninth inning to force extra innings, Benji Jackson started off the bottom of the 10th inning with a leadoff single up the middle. After Henry Rundio laid down a sacrifice-bunt, a ground-out by Ryan Hodge moved Jackson into scoring position with two outs. Boiling Springs native Dusty Quattlebaum was able to hit an infield-single to push Jackson home for the win.
Game Two: Gardner-Webb took advantage of a four-run fifth inning and good relief pitching from Mitch Warner on their way to an 8-2 win over Radford on Saturday.
Warner came into the game in the fifth inning, and pitched five scoreless innings, scattering three hits, and striking out four batters.
Quattlebaum’s two-run double off the fence in left center-field sparked the four-run inning, and the Runnin’ Bulldogs never looked back in a 14-hit performance.
Gardner-Webb was led offensively by Hodge who went 3-for-5 from the plate with three runs scored. Quattlebaum, Rundio, Coleman, and Jackson each had two hits in the game.
Scott Coleman’s RBI-single in the bottom of the first inning gave Gardner-Webb an early 1-0 lead, but things went downhill quickly for the Runnin’ Bulldogs during a 10-4 loss.
Radford scored 10 unanswered runs, including a six-run sixth inning. Meanwhile, Mark Peterson (4-1) led the way from the mound for the Highlanders, lasting 6.1 innings while allowing one run, and scattering five hits and two walks.
With the exception of the ninth inning, Gardner-Webb struggled throughout the rest of the game. The Runnin’ Bulldogs only managed four hits from the second to the eighth inning, and stranded 12 runners on base throughout the game.
Not only did Gardner-Webb struggle offensively, but issues arose from the mound as well. Starting pitcher Beau Hilton (4-3) lasted only three innings, throwing 62 pitches, and allowing three runs with five hits and two walks. Adam Izokovic, Gardner-Webb’s closer, gave up six runs off of five hits and two walks in one inning of work.
As a whole, the Runnin’ Bulldogs allowed 14 hits and walked eight Highlanders throughout the game.
Gardner-Webb’s offense came to life in the ninth inning, as Dusty Quattlebaum’s two-run single sparked a three-run inning, but it was too little too late.
“When you play this game long enough, and you’re getting a lot of breaks, eventually that’s going to turn,” said Stroupe.