By Graham Hill
The baseball team hosted the second nationally ranked team in the nation for DIII baseball and came up short of completing a monumental comeback.
WPU baseball fell short against the #2-ranked SUNY Cortland Red Dragons by a final score of 9-7 on Tuesday, March 16 at the USA National Training Complex in Cary. The Pacers went down 6-0 early after two innings, and one point trailed by a total of 8-0.
The Red Dragons controlled the game early from the top of the first inning as they scored four runs to begin the game. Two more runs were added in the top of the second. After the top of the third, the Red Dragons would look to leave Cary easily as they held a 7-0 lead.
The Red Dragons added on to their lead in the top of the 5th by one run to make it 8-0. RHP #31 Ryan Flansburg for Cortland stopped any sort of offense the Pacers tried to gain as he had a total of three strikeouts throughout five innings.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the 5th when the Pacers were able to get the goose egg off the scoreboard as a double from sophomore, Nick Tyler, would bring Logan Barbour and Kevin Gonzalez home to cut the lead down to 8-2.
The Red Dragons immediately responded at the top of the sixth to extend their lead to 9-2.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh that the Pacers started to make things interesting, as Hunter Ward sent the ball into the left-field corner that would bring in Barbour and Gonzalez making the score 9-4. Senior transfer, Brett Kemp would hit a single to allow Ward to come home making the lead 9-5. Then, in the bottom of the 8th, Gonzalez would hit a two-run, home run out of the right field for his first of the season to bring the lead down to 9-7.
Despite the valiant effort, Cortland settled down in the bottom of the 9th as they were able to capitalize on a double play to get two outs quickly, and then a groundout closed the door on the Pacer’s hope of a comeback, making the final score 9-7.
Stats of the game: Nick Tyler went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs, while Kevin Gonzalez went 1 for 3 with 1 home run to add to his 1 RBI.
The Pacers are led by Coach Long in his first season with the program after previously coaching at NC Wesleyan College.
“I’m just proud of how our guys stayed in it and never lost hope,” said Long. “They continued to battle and were able to make things interesting, they made it difficult for Cortland to get those 27-outs in total.”
The Pacers now hold an overall record of 10-7 for the season.
The USA South Conference will begin on March 18th. The Pacers will play against Methodist University on the road for a three-game series. The first pitch for Friday, March 18th is scheduled for 4 PM in Fayetteville. The first pitch on Saturday, the 19th, and Sunday, the 20th will be scheduled for 1 PM.
Post game huddle, photo by Graham Hill