Marion, NC- The Falcons baseball team headed into Tuesday's doubleheader having lost eight of their last nine contests and were the clear underdog in the matchup, and looked to get back on track against a strong University of the Cumberlands team. The Patriots entered the day ranked as the #11 ranked team in the NAIA, having won 15 of their last 16 games with an overall record of 15-2. Neither team had the home field advantage as the two teams competed at the Big League Camp turf facility in Marion, NC, and each team came out with a 7-inning win as UC outlasted the Falcons in Game 1 9-8, with the Falcons taking an 8-3 win in the nightcap.
Game 1- The Falcons looked to get on the board first right away in the first inning as they collected a pair of hits from Ivan Rivera (Brooklyn, NY) and Mitchell Lundholm (Plymouth, MA) off of Patriots starter, Tyler Morris, but they could capitalize leaving both men stranded. Falcons starter Kevin Bongiovani (Bayside, NY) had a clean first inning to start his third game of the year strong, but the Patriots got on the board first tallying three runs off a pair of hits in the bottom of the second to take an early 3-0 lead. After walking a man with one out, Bryan Leef roped a triple to deep right center putting his team up 1-0. Patriots Rolando Rodriguez followed with a dinger over the left field fence to take the 3-0 lead. The Falcons grabbed a run back in the top of third on a wild pitch but the Patriots took a 6-1 lead in the bottom of the 4th off three singles and a pair of walks.
Fisher cut the lead to 6-5 in the top of the 5th as Braxten Ramirez (Amarillo, TX) started the inning with a single up the middle to get the rally going. The Falcons then chased Morris out of the game after he loaded up the bases with a pair of walks to Jorge Sanchez (Caguas, PR) and Rivera with no outs, bringing in Patriots reliever Wyatt Wade. Lundholm welcomed Wade into the game with 2-RBI double to left center, plating Ramirez and Sanchez. Jonathan Rosado (Bayamon, PR) followed up with a 2 RBI double of his own to make it 6-5 with no outs. Wade was able to work out of the jam and retired the next three batters and headed into the 5th with his team still up 6-5. The Patriots answered again in the bottom half of the 5th, knocking two homeruns over the fence off of Falcons reliever Raymundo Gomez (Lynn, MA) for three more runs to regain the 9-5 lead. The Falcons had answers of their own as three more singles from Rivera, Rosado and John Batista (Lawrence, MA) got the Falcons back to within two and headed to the bottom of the 6th down 9-7. After a shaky fifth, Gomez settled down for his team and had a clean sixth as the Falcons would head to the 7th for some late inning magic. A pinch hit triple from Cameron Pearson (Orlando, FL) started the rally for the Falcons as he knocked a Nicholas Perpera pitch deep to centerfield. Perpera remained composed though and struck out the next two Falcons. Sanchez singled Pearson in to make it 9-8, but the Patriots closer was able to retire the last Falcon to earn a hard fought 9-8 victory.
The first five batters in the Falcons lineup were productive in the contest combining for 10 of the 12 Falcons hits, while adding three doubles, seven RBI's and seven runs scored. Ivan Rivera had his second three-hit performance of the season, while Batista has had a pair of hits in each of his last three games. Kevin Bongiovani took his first loss of the season allowing just five hits while striking out three. Leef and Rodriguez led the Patriots as they each went 2 for 3 at the plate, combining for six RBI and three HR. Tyler Morris earned his third win of the season, pitching four innings of five-hit ball while striking out a pair.
Game 2- Fisher wasted no time in the nightcap as they jumped all over Patriots starter Colton Easterwood in the first inning, plating four funs on three hits, to take a 4-0 lead right off the bat. For the 12th time this season leadoff man Jorge Sanchez kicked off the game with a base hit, this time a single to center. An error and a walk from Easterwood loaded up the bases for Rosado who took a pitch off the body for an RBI and a 1-0 lead still with no outs. Joshua Rogers (Highlands Ranch, CO) then drove in a pair on a double to right field to make it 3-0. Braxten Ramirez singled in another run to make it 4-0 without a Patriots out. Easterwood buckled down though and was able to strike out the next three Falcons to get out of the inning down 4-0. The Patriots cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first as they tacked on two runs on a pair of hits, a walk and a Falcons error and would head to the 2nd down 4-2 to the visitors. UC made it a one-run game as they earned another run in the bottom of the second inning off of Falcons starter Randolf Flores (Brooklyn, NY), making it 4-3 after two full.
The third and fourth innings were quiet for both teams with neither team notching a run, while combining for five hits. The Falcons opened up a three-run lead again in the top of the 5th as the Patriots went to reliever Nathan Geissler and the Falcons tagged him for two runs off of singles from Sanchez and Lundholm making it a 6-3 game. . Falcons reliever Yamil Delgado (Caguas, PR) held the Patriots bats in check for three innings of relief as he allowed just three hits over the last three innings of play. The Falcons grabbed two insurance runs in the top of the seventh on a Lundholm blast, his second of the season to make it 8-3. Delgado pitched to three batters in the 7th to close the door for the 15th win for the Falcons, handing the Patriots just their third loss of the season.
Sanchez had three hits in the nightcap while Lundholm and Pearson each contributed with a pair of hits. Lundholm's four RBI's gives him 31 this season, tying him for first in the A.I.I. Conference. Randolf Flores earned his first win of the season, going four innings, allowing just two earned runs on six hits and striking out four. The Patriots were led offensively by Raudy Martinez, Bryan Benz, and Robbie Stroub who each tallied a pair of hits in the losing effort. Easterwood took the loss for the home squad, his first of the season, allowing three earned runs on six hits while striking out three.
The series finale will be back at the confines of UC's home field Wednesday afternoon at 4pm. The game can be streamed live here.