Hickory, NC – The North Greenville University baseball team began the 2014 season in exciting fashion, splitting a double header with non-conference member Lenoir Rhyne University on Saturday afternoon. The Crusaders took game one 8-5 in 11 innings, while the Bears earned a 3-1 victory in game two.
North Greenville began the first game on top as Drew Lipscomb drew a walk, followed by a double by Jessep Polk and Allen Staton was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Sophomore Tyler Mitchell gave the Crusaders the early lead, driving in two runs with an RBI single before back-to-back RBI singles from Foley George and Walker Darnell gave North Greenville a 4-0 edge after one inning of play.
The game remained in favor of the Crusaders until Lenoir Rhyne used two runs in the 3rd inning and three more in the 4th to go ahead 5-4 on their home field. The Crusaders tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the 8th on a solo home run by Mitchell which eventually forced extra innings.
In the 11th inning of play, Wheeler Smith led off with a single and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Lipscomb. After a pop out by Polk, the Bears intentionally walked Staton to put runners on first and second with two out and Mitchell approaching the plate. The Laurens, SC native delivered in the clutch, blasting a three-run bomb over the left field fence to secure the 8-5 victory.
North Greenville starter Kelvin Minnig went 7 2/3 innings on the mound, allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out three batters in his first start of the season. Senior Ryan Woodring came on to record 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief with two strikeouts, while Staton earned the win with two-innings on the mound, allowing just one hit in relief.
Mitchell finished the game 3-for-5 with two home runs, scoring three runs and driving in six RBI, while Stephen Cantrell was 2-for-3 with a double in the game. George finished the game 2-for-6 with an RBI along with Darnell, while Staton was 1-for-3 with two runs scored.
In game two, neither team was able to gain an advantage as Crusader starter Matt Laurens began the game with three no-hit innings on the mound until the Bears scored one run in each of the 4th, 5th and 6th innings of play.
The Crusaders looked to mount a comeback in the top of the 7th inning on an RBI single by Cantrell but the rally fell short as Lenoir Rhyne earned the 3-1 win at home.
Laurens was hit with the tough loss after 5 1/3 innings pitched, allowing three runs on five hits, while freshman Eric Hertel pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief.
North Greenville (1-1, 0-0 Conference Carolinas) will remain on the road as they travel to Newberry, SC for a mid-week game with Newberry College on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 3 p.m.