By Forest Stulting
Since the last issue of the newspaper, the Paladins have gone 2-3. But with the meat of the season here, it is time for the Paladins to start cooking. With a lot of rotation in the outfield and bullpen during the non-conference schedule, it is time to find the winning formula.
The Paladins hosted Presbyterian at Latham Stadium and defeated the Blue Hose 9-3. They garnered seven hits and were helped a little bit by PC committing three errors. Both Burtons, Heath and Hunter, made a huge impact in the victory. Hunter went 2-3, scoring two runs and driving in two runs. Heath followed in line with his brother going 2-4, scoring one run and driving in three. On the mound the Paladins pieced it together, sending out five pitchers. Presbyterian got all three runs in the first three innings, and after that, Paladin pitching only gave up three hits.
Coming off a strong win against PC, the Paladins then made the trip down to Birmingham, Ala., to face the Samford Bulldogs in the second conference series of the year. In the first game the Paladins jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the third off a single by Chris Ohmstede. The next inning Andrew MacLatchie hit a two-run homer to bring the score to 3-0. The Bulldogs responded with a solo home run in the fifth. In the top of the sixth inning the Paladins responded with two runs. Heath Burton singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Hunter Burton reached on an error and was driven in by a Jordan Simpson double to complete the inning. The Bulldogs would go on to score four runs in the bottom of the sixth and keep the Paladins’ bats at bay for the rest of the game. The final score was 9-5 Samford.
The next day, the Paladins put up a four spot in the fourth and seventh innings. Alex Abrams and Sky Overton led the team with three RBIs each en route to an 11-9 victory. It wasn’t a great day for pitching, but the combination of Elliot Warford, Alex Abrams (W, 4-1), and Tyler Wood got the job done for the win.
In the rubber game, the Paladins jumped out to a four-run lead in the first inning. The big blow came on a two RBI triple by Ohmstede — he would go on to score the fourth run on a wild pitch. In the top of the second, Sky Overton singled and stole second base to set the table for Alex Abrams, who singled and drove in Overton to make the score 5-0. This would be the last inning the Paladins scored. Samford would go on to score 13 unanswered runs to make the final 13-5.
Next, the Paladins traveled to Clemson to face the Tigers in the annual matchup of Palmetto rivals. This time around nationally-ranked Clemson had the Paladins’ number. Furman got on the board in the first with one run at the expense of a fielding error and three walks. But the Paladins wouldn’t score again until the ninth, and in between the Tigers put up 13 runs to defeat the Paladins 13-2.
Next up was a home conference series against the Davidson Wildcats. There’s a saying in baseball that if you look at a box score there is usually one inning in which the game can either be won or lost, and this was the case in the opening game on Friday night. The Wildcats got all three of their runs in the decisive second inning. The Paladins would rally in the sixth with one run coming from a sacrifice fly from Greg Harrison and one run in the seventh from Hunter Burton’s RBI double. The Paladins would come close to tying the game in the eighth but couldn’t quite string it all together.
In the second game both teams came out of the gate with two runs in the first. Abrams doubled to center field, then was driven in by Ohmstede’s triple — he would go on to score on a wild pitch to complete the inning. The big inning came in the second inning when the Wildcats put up five runs. The Paladins battled throughout the game scattering ten hits — just two short of Davidson’s 12. They just couldn’t get the timely hits when they were needed. Another bright spot was Ryan Ditmar who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning. He went on to pitch 3.1 innings, giving up two hits, allowing one run while striking out five. Hopefully, we will see more of Ditmar in games to come. The final score of the game was 10-5 Davidson.
In the final game of the series, Davidson jumped out on senior pitcher Tyler Wood with four runs in the first. The Paladins got one back in the bottom half when Abrams doubled and scored on a fielder’s choice two batters later. Wood settled down and pitched four outstanding innings striking out nine Wildcats. His final line was five innings pitched, giving up six runs on five hits. In the third, Greg Harrison hit a two-run home run to cut the deficit to three. The Wildcats had just too much offense as they went on to win 11-6 and sweep the Paladins.
The Paladins will play South Carolina downtown at Fluor Field April 8 before traveling to Cullowhee, N.C., to face Western Carolina in the fourth SoCon series of the year. Two days later the Paladins will travel to Clinton, S.C., to face Presbyterian. The Paladins return home to face rival Wofford in the fifth SoCon series of the year. If the Paladins can find a way to win both of these series, they will be in a good position to earn a decent seed for the SoCon tournament.
“Honestly, we need to work on team chemistry,” said starting pitcher Jacques de Gruy, explaining what the team needs to work on to reach its goals. “A lot of guys on the team are only out to serve themselves, and it’s affecting the way we play the game even though we have a lot of really talented players.”