By Trent McCann
The Furman Paladins baseball team started the season off with a couple of wins in the First Pitch Invitational at Fluor Field this past weekend.
The Friday, Feb. 15 season opener came down to two outs and a full count in the bottom of the ninth for three straight Paladin hitters.
First, Jake Jones managed a two out walk before pinch hitter Heath Burton lined a full count triple over the outstretched arm of the Michigan State centerfielder.
For a brief moment it seemed that we were about to see a walk-off inside-the-park homerun, but Burton was held up by the third base coach.
This became irrelevant as first baseman Alex Abrams lined a single into left field after an eight pitch at bat to bring home the winning run in the first game of the season.
Impressively, Furman pitchers combined for ten strikeouts and no walks on the afternoon.
Unfortunately, the previously scheduled afternoon game on Saturday, Feb. 16 against Northwestern University was cancelled after four innings due to extreme weather conditions.
Whirling snow made it too difficult to for the players to see the ball, and after about an hour of waiting for the weather to clear, the game was called off. The game will not be replayed and none of the statistics will be recorded.
This allowed the team a brief reprieve before their game on Sunday, Feb. 17. This game was another nail-biter, but once again the Paladins were able to pull it out. Catcher/first baseman Paul Nitto lead the way with five RBI in a 6-5 win over Miami of Ohio.
With a 3-2 lead and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Nitto hit a pop fly that got caught in the wind between the shortstop and left fielder. Neither was able to come up with the
play, and the ball landed harmlessly in the grass as all three Paladin base runners came around to score.
The following inning Miami of Ohio hit a three-run homerun to bring the game within one run, but that was as close as they could get.
Reliever Ben Carlson was the winning pitcher against Michigan State, while sophomore starter Jake Wolff got the win in only his second career start on Feb. 17.
New closer Matt Solter secured the save in the game. Leadoff man Will Muzika and cleanup hitter Nitto lead the way with four hits each this weekend, and the team as a whole hit a solid .312 combined.
Although the team’s schedule is quite busy, the men’s baseball team is coming out strong as they start the season, which will hopefully continue as they progress through the current season.
The team returns to action on Wednesday, Feb. 27 as they play USC Upstate at home.