By Joshua J. Darling, Sports Information Director
LAGRANGE, Ga. – No. 2/10 LaGrange (15-6, 4-0 CCS) would score seven runs over the final two innings to turn a 2-2 tie into a 9-4 victory over Covenant (7-7, 2-1 CCS) in an NCAA Division III baseball game on Friday, March 24.
While the final score would not be indicative of it, the first six and a half innings would be a pitchers duel with the teams managing just four runs in that time. They would scatter 15 of the game's 25 hits but none would lead to a crooked number on the scoreboard until the top of the fourth.
That frame would see Chris Savage leadoff with a single and move to third on a double by George Manera on the very next at bat. Savage would then score on a sacrifice fly by Benjamin Johnson before an error and double play ended any further threat.
It would take all of one half inning for the Panthers to erase that deficit and they would do it all with two outs. A single to right by junior second baseman Adam Dorn (Canton, Ga.) would get things started and would be followed by a single to left by freshman shortstop Jackson McElvy (Kennesaw, Ga.) to put runners on first and third.
The pitching would then break down for Covenant as a wild pitch would score Dorn and McElvy would follow with another one right after it for a 2-1 lead after four. A single and a steal by Joseph Ridenour in the fifth would pay off for the Scots as they tied it up when Kenny Mills poked a single through to right.
It would stay that way until the bottom of the seventh when LaGrange showed why they are ranked in the Top-10. That inning would see them pound out five hits and drive in five runs to blow the game open as a triple by senior third baseman Joe Ruth (Chiefland, Fla.) scored a pair.
Ruth would be out at home on a fielder's choice following a pitching change but the results would be no better for Covenant. Junior catcher David Smigelski (Canton, Ga.) ripped a double to left and junior designated hitter Jared Aldridge (Carrollton, Ga.) then belted a three-run blast over the left field fence to put the game out of reach at 7-2.
LC would add on in the home half of the eighth as a single, steal, error and a walk would put runners on first and third. Ruth would then strike again as he laced a double to left to score one and extend to an 8-2 advantage. Smigleski then added a sac fly for a seven-run margin.
The Scots would show some life in the top of the ninth but it would be too little, too late as they managed just a pair of runs on two hits and an error to reach the eventual final of 9-4.
Mills would go 2-for-5 with one of three RBIs on the day for Covenant while Johnson and Chase McBryar would plate the others. Savage went 3-for-4 with a walk and run scored and Manera went 2-for-5 to round out the offense. Bryce Bollinger would throw the first 6.1 innings but would allow five runs and nine hits to fall to 3-1 on the year.
Ruth would anchor the Panthers' day, going 4-for-5 with a double, triple and three RBIs and Aldridge would go 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored off a homerun. Dorn added a 2-for-4 day that included a run while junior pitcher Ethan Fry (Kennesaw, Ga.) threw six innings of two-run ball along with five strikeouts. He would get a no decision but sophomore Ashton Shackelford (Ellerslie, Ga.) picked up the win to go to 3-0 with just one third of an inning.
The Panthers return to action tomorrow, Saturday, March 25 with the doubleheader portion of the three-game set against Covenant. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.