By Joshua J. Darling, Sports Information Director
BEREA, Ky. – No. 2/9 LaGrange (14-5, 3-0 CCS) completed the three-game sweep of Berea (3-16, 0-3 CCS) behind steady offense capped by a ninth inning explosion as they posted an 11-6 victory in an NCAA Division III baseball game on Sunday, March 19.
A scoreless first inning would belie what was to come in the second as the teams combined for six runs. Following back-to-back outs to begin the top of the second, junior designated hitter Jared Aldridge (Carrollton, Ga.) doubled to left and then came home when junior first baseman Brooks Short (Auburn, Ala.) did the same to right field. Short then crossed home plate when junior second baseman Adam Dorn (Canton, Ga.) singled to center to make it 2-0.
Jayden Junta walked to begin the bottom of the second and a single by Zion Clay and walk by Ricardo Serra loaded the bases with no one out. AJ Wylie then drew a walk to force home Junta and Justin Brown lofted a fly ball to centerfield for a sacrifice fly to plate Clay. Following a hit by pitch to put runners on first and third, Michael Vazquez ripped a double to right to score Wylie and Serra for a 4-2 lead.
A Junta double to leadoff the third followed by a Clay fly ball and Serra groundout made it 5-2 before the Panthers answered in the top of the fourth. That would come in the form of a Smigelski double to right with one out and Short punching a single through to center to drive him home with two outs.
They would inch closer with another un in the fifth when freshman outfielder Curt Bonner (Cartersville, Ga.) singled home senior outfielder Rhett Mixon (Loganville, Ga.) to cut it to 5-4. In the home half of the inning, a leadoff walk by Vazquez, as it so often does, led to offense as he would eventually come around to score on a fielder's choice to push back to a two-run advantage.
LaGrange would continue to build a picket fence in the sixth as they went base-to-base before second baseman Jackson McElvy (Kennesaw, Ga.) singled Short home to claw to within 6-5. That trend would continue in the seventh as three singles set the stage for Aldridge to loft a sac fly to right to score senior third baseman Joe Ruth (Chiefland, Fla.) and tie it up at 6-6.
The eighth would see the Panthers' obligatory solo run come with two outs when Mixon reached on an error and then came all the way around to score when junior outfielder Jorge Fragoso (East Point, Ga.) singled to center for a 7-6 advantage. They would then allow just a single in the bottom of the frame to maintain that margin heading to the ninth.
And that inning would see them go away from five straight innings with exactly one run and move to scoring nearly that amount with four runs on three hits and an error. That offensive outburst would be fueled by an RBI double from Aldridge, run scoring single from Short and a two-run double to center by McElvy to put the game out of reach. LC would make it official when they stranded a pair of Mountaineers in the bottom of the inning to lock down the 11-6 victory and series sweep.
Vazquez would lead Berea as he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored while Junta was 3-for-4 with a double, walk and pair of runs scored. Clay, Serra, Wylie and Brown each added a solo RBI to close out the offense and Junta held down the mound for seven innings as well. He would allow six earned runs but would get a no decision with Eli Brown throwing 1.1 innings of relief in which he gave up five runs, three earned, to suffer the loss.
Short led LaGrange with three RBIs and a double and three runs as part of a 3-for-4 day while McElvy was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a double. Aldridge went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and two runs and Dorn was 2-for-4 with a run and RBI. Bonner had the other RBI as part of a 2-for-5 day while Smigelski was 2-for-5 with a double and two runs. Mixon rounded out the offense going 1-for-5 but with two runs and a pair of walks, one intentional.
The Panthers host the top team in the country as No. 1 Birmingham-Southern visits Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium on Wednesday, March 22. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.