The North Greenville University Crusaders lost a tough battle Wednesday to the Limestone College Saints.
The Crusaders took command of the game in the 4th inning as first baseman Chad Drosieko drove in right fielder Justin Walters on a RBI single to left field. The Crusader offense struck again in the 5th inning when catcher Perry Foster doubled to the right field wall,
and was brought home by a single to right off the bat of center fielder Randy Stegall.
Third baseman Dayton Lupton led things off in the 7th inning with a single to right field, and was advanced to 2nd base when Corey Cline moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. This set things up for David Frazier’s single to drive in Lupton and give the Crusaders a 3-0 lead through 7 innings.
On the flip side, the Saints were held to 1 run, 5 singles, and 2 walks through 8 2/3 innings, due to the masterful pitching performance of senior Devin Vance. Vance, pitching on three days rest, brought sharp command and his full arsenal of pitches to the mound against the Saints. But the old baseball adage, “It ain’t over ‘til its over,” reared its ugly head against the Crusader ball club. To start the 9th inning, Saint’s left fielder Tim Welsh reached on an error by Crusader third baseman, Dayton Lupton, and advanced to second on Lupton’s errant throw. Next, the Saint’s designated hitter, Josh Troutman, popped up to Randy Stegall in shallow center field for the first out, and shortstop, Seth Austin, struck out looking at a fast ball for the second out. Game over, right? Not exactly. With first base open and third baseman David Christy, who was 2-3 in the game already, due up, the Crusaders decided to pitch to him and accept the consequences. Christy singled to right, driving in Welsh, pulling the score to 3-2. Vance, who struck out 9 on the game, was taken out with the 8 and 9 batters coming up for the Saints, due to his high pitch count. With two outs in the 9th and a runner on first, Derek Brown was handed pitching duties by Coach Henson. Brown proceeded to hit catcher Joe Maloney then walk second baseman Justin Moore to load the bases. Daniel Goodnight was then brought in to face the Saint’s lead off batter Gregory Daily and get the Crusaders out of a tight jam. Goodnight walked Daily (run attributed to Vance), tying the game at 3, then gave up a 2 RBI double (runs attributed to Brown) to left field off the bat of right fielder Aldo Mendez, putting the Saints up 5-3. Goodnight got the Crusaders out of the inning by striking out first baseman Drew Lydon, but the damage was done.
To start the 9th inning, Perry Foster grounded out to Saints pitcher, Clint Howell. A ray of hope seemingly shined for the Crusaders when the door to a comeback was cracked open when Saint’s shortstop, Seth Austin, bobbled a grounder from the bat of David Frazier. But the door to a comeback was not cracked open enough, as Randy Stegall grounded out to second, and pinch hitter Chuck Martin struck out to end the game.
It was a heart breaker to watch as a fan, but even tougher on the Crusader players. But amidst a tough loss, Coach Travis Henson found a ray of positive light. “I’m very proud of our guys,” Henson said, “we played better today, and Devin Vance was outstanding on the mound for us. To the Saint’s credit, they showed great resolve, and came back on us. We got some clutch hits and played really well, no doubt about it!”
As the saying, “It ain’t over ‘till its over,” took its toll on the Crusader baseball family today, we know that tomorrow brings another day. Another day to hope, another day to dream, another day to play ball.
Crusader player of the Game: Pitcher Devin Vance: 8 2/3 innings pitched, 9 K’s, 2 BB’s, 6 Hits (all singles), 3 R, 2 ER.
Notable Crusader batting stats: Stegall 2-4 RBI, Walters 1-4 R, Drosieko 1-3 RBI BB, Lupton 1-4 R, Cline 1-3 SAC, Foster 1-4 2B R, Frazier 2-4 RBI.