By Forest Stulting, Sports Editor
After dropping two of three in the First Pitch Invitational at Fluor Field to open the season, the Furman Paladins baseball team swept Atlantic 10 member Dayton at Latham Stadium this weekend.
In its first game of the season, Furman took a 5-2 loss against Fordham. The Paladins allowed all five unearned Fordham runs in the eighth after sophomore Will Gaddis pitched six innings giving up one hit while striking out eight.
The lone Paladin RBI came in the sixth off the bat of senior infielder Jordan Simpson, who singled in the second run of the game. Senior catcher Cameron Whitehead scored during Simpson’s at-bat off a Fordham wild pitch.
The next day, Furman squared off against Big Ten member Michigan State. The Spartans jumped on the Paladins early with three runs in the first. Furman would go on to score four in the third, three in the fifth and one in the sixth but the Paladin pitching could not contain the Spartan bats. Michigan State won 15-8 off 18 hits and one Paladin error.
Furman got in the win column the next day against in-state rival Presbyterian College with a walk-off single from freshman shortstop/pitcher Jake Crawford. Just like the Michigan State game, the Paladins gave up three first-inning runs. But the Furman bats responded by scoring eight of its runs between the second and sixth innings. Crawford hit his first career home run as a Paladin and Simpson also smacked a solo shot.
However, in the top of the ninth, with Furman up 7-5, Presbyterian blasted a three-run, pinch-hit home run to take an 8-7 lead. Simpson would tie the game with a single through the left side scoring junior outfielder Sky Overton.
With the bases loaded, Crawford lined a single over the second basemen to give the Paladins a 9-8 victory.
The following weekend, after a midweek game against Presbyterian was postponed (April 26), Gaddis took the ball Friday afternoon and pitched another masterful performance going seven innings while giving up one run off five hits and striking out eight against Dayton.
In the bottom of the first, freshman outfielder Jabari Richards hit a leadoff, opposite-field homerun to left in his first career at-bat in Latham Stadium. After junior outfielder Carter Grote laced a double to left center, sophomore infielder/pitcher Brandon Elmy singled up the middle scoring Grote, giving the Paladins an early 2-0 lead.
Furman would score one in the second, three in the fourth and one in the sixth and eighth to seal an 8-1 win.
Junior pitcher Matthew Quarles earned his first win of the season, pitching seven innings and giving up three earned runs off five hits while striking out four in the second game of the series.
Dayton got on the board first in the fifth with two runs but the Paladins responded in the bottom half with four runs of their own.
Elmy singled to lead off the inning; then Simpson would drive him in off a triple down the right field line. Simpson would score on a fielder’s choice off the bat of sophomore infielder Sims Griffith. Richards then blasted his second homerun of the season to left, scoring Griffith to complete the inning.
The Paladins would score one in the sixth, two in the seventh and eighth to secure a 9-3 victory.
In its final game of the series, Furman won a 5-3 contest behind the strong pitching debut of Crawford and five RBI between Simpson and Whitehead.
After senior shortstop Matt Towarnicky was hit by a pitch and a Richards walk, Whitehead singled through the ride side after a wild pitch that advanced both runners, allowing them to score on the hit.
In the bottom of the eighth, Whitehead and Elmy both singled before Simpson sent a blast over the left field fence, breaking the tie to improve the Paladin record to 4-2 on the season.
The Paladins will host its next five games at Latham Stadium with games against USC-Upstate (March 1), Holy Cross (March 5-6) and UNC-Asheville (March 8).