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USC Upstate (9-18)
3/28/2014 | Spartanburg, S.C. | Attendance: 64
Friday, March 28, 2014
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Behind a clutch defensive effort, the Lipscomb baseball team pounded out 14 hits to get the 11-0 victory in the first of a three-game set against USC Upstate in Atlantic Sun Conference road action Friday night at Cleveland S. Harley Park.
The Bisons used their first shutout of the year to improve to 17-10 overall and 6-1 in the A-Sun. The loss dropped the Spartans to 9-18, 1-6 in the A-Sun.
“I thought we played a great game,” Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand said. “We worked ourselves out of some trouble and were able to get an unconventional shutout.
“Anytime you can get a shutout from your pitching staff, you give your offense a chance to move. We did that and I liked what I saw out there tonight.”
It did not take long for Lipscomb to get on the board. In the first inning Tyson Ashcraft singled to right field to bring in Grant Massey for a quick 1-0 lead. The RBI was Ashcraft’s 20th of the season.
Upstate’s freshman pitcher Eric Birkland began to find his groove and used five punch outs over the next three innings to hold Lipscomb scoreless.
The Bisons began to lock in on Birkland and chased him from the game in the fifth with three hits, a walk and a run in the inning.
Junior Mike Korte led off the fifth with a single through the right side. Senior catcher Nick Rome then moved Korte over with a sacrifice bunt. Junior center fielder Jonathan Allison knocked Korte in with a single to left.
After a balk moved Allison over to second, Upstate gave Massey his A-Sun leading 26th free pass of the year to put runners on first and second.
That set the table for senior Drew Adams who roped a line shot into center scoring Allison for his league-leading 30th RBI of the season and make it a 3-0 Lipscomb lead.
Junior knuckleballer Ian Martinez-McGraw saw plenty of trouble, allowing base runners to reach in each of the first six innings, but was able to work himself out of it every time. In the first and third innings, Martinez-McGraw kept his focus and induced the 28th and 29th double-plays of the year for Lipscomb to get out of the inning.
“We allowed runners to get on base the first couple of innings,” Forehand said. “But Ian did a great job of inducing some ground balls and working his way out of those jams.”
Martinez-McGraw held Upstate to 0-of-10 from the plate with runners in scoring position.
The Purple and Gold extended its lead and plated two more runs in the seventh to make it 5-0.
Rome led off the inning with a single then Allison reached on an error. Massey singled through the right side to knock in Rome. Allison crossed the dish on a Dylan Parker wild pitch.
Lipscomb’s bats continued to heat up as the game went along, putting up a six-spot in the eighth on five hits.
Sophomore Austin Sistrunk increased his team-leading batting average to .341 with a laser that one-hopped to the right field fence for a standup double.
Freshman designated hitter Hunter Hanks then reached on a bunt attempt when the pitcher air mailed the ball over the first baseman’s head. Sistrunk came around to score on the error. After Adam Lee and Korte received free passes, Rome’s sacrifice fly scored Hanks to make it 7-0.
Allison and Massey recorded back-to-back RBI-singles to push the lead to 9-0.
“We got a good bunt from Hunter (Hanks) in the eighth inning,” Forehand said. “From there, the bats came alive and we knocked in some runs, which was huge.”
Adams then recorded his 31st RBI on a sacrifice fly to center.
Josh Lee rounded out the scoring when he doubled down the right field line in his first at-bat to bring home Massey.
Martinez-McGraw threw six innings of work while allowing six hits. The junior struck out three and walked three to take his record to 4-1 on the season.
Jacob Knott finished the last three innings on the mound and did not allow a base runner. He recorded his fifth save of the year.
Birkland took the loss and dropped to 0-4. The freshman worked four-and-one-third innings, while giving up six hits and three runs. He did record a career-high five strikeouts to go with three walks.
Four Bisons recorded multiple hits and three with multiple RBIs.
The Bisons return to the diamond at 1 p.m. CT Saturday for game two of a three-game set.
Forehand talked about what Lipscomb needs to do to be successful the rest of the weekend.
“It is just more of the same,” Forehand said. “Every game we go out and try to accomplish our three goals: offense, defense and pitching. If we have those, then good things are going to happen.
“We have to build off of this win tonight.”