The Rams (26-21, 22-8 MEC) lost two road games Thursday afternoon against the Fighting Falcons (28-20, 20-10 MEC) of Fairmont State University.
In game one, both sides showcased their offensive skills, as the Fighting Falcons won in a shootout 11-10.
Going into the bottom of the third inning, the Rams held a 3-1 lead, but would see it relinquished by the end of the inning.
Outfielder/pitcher Ben Myers came through for the Fighting Falcons with a RBI single to left center that cut the Rams’ lead to one with a 3-2 score. Infielder Johnny Kesling, who homered in the second inning, tripled later in the inning to clear the bases and bring in infielder Tyler Krantz and Myers on the play.
With the Fighting Falcons now leading 4-3, the Rams had to make a quick counter. Senior infielder Brandon Kirk responded with a two-run homerun to right field in the top of the fourth inning to help the Rams retake the lead, with a 5-4 score.
The Rams would score three more runs in top of the fifth inning, with Kirk delivering the third run of the inning with his RBI single up the middle that brought home junior infielder/outfielder Chase Hoffman.
With an 8-4 lead, things were looking good for the Rams, until the Fighting Falcons’ bats came alive.
After Kesling’s solo-shot homerun in the bottom of the sixth inning that made the score 8-5, the Rams tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh inning that stretched the lead to 10-5.
In the bottom of the seventh and final inning (because of the double-header), the Fighting Falcons put their rally caps on in big ways to come back late and beat the Rams.
After RBI singles from infielder Darrin Zombro and outfielder/pitcher Austin Norman, the Rams were starting to get nervous, as they saw their lead dwindled to 10-7.
Then, Kesling stepped up to the plate again, and like he had done all game long, delivered a blow to the Rams, coming through in crunch time with a double down the left field line that brought in two Fighting Falcons’ runners to reduce the Rams’ lead to 10-9.
Pinch hitter outfielder Fraser Brown came to the plate a few batters later with two outs and Kesling on third base. Representing the winning run, Brown crushed a two-run walk-off homerun to center field that gave the Fighting Falcons a hard-fought 11-10 victory.
Senior starting pitcher John Bentley (6.0 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO) tried to close out the game for the Rams, but the Figting Falcons’ offense proved to be too potent in this contest.
Starting pitcher Michael Stout of the Fighting Falcons had similar numbers to Bentley (6.0 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 12 SO), as they both recorded a no-decision.
Game two proved to be much lower-scoring, as the Rams were still licking their wounds after game one’s late collapse, with the Fighting Falcons took this one handily by a 5-1 score.
Both teams produced seven hits, but the Fighting Falcons converted more of their opportunities early on at least.
The Fighting Falcons, riding the momentum of game one’s comeback win, came out of the gates hot, scoring three runs in the first inning. Brown singled up the middle to drive home two Fighting Falcons’ runners to give the Fighting Falcons an early 2-0 lead.
Later in the inning, first baseman/outfielder Jacob Whitmore came in score thanks to a single to right field by infielder Brooks Carr, which made the lead 3-0 for the Fighting Falcons.
The Rams would score their only run of the game off the bat of freshman catcher Joe Burack in the top of the second inning. He had a sacrifice fly to center field that provided enough time for sophomore outfielder Reid Entsminger to come in and score, cutting the Fighting Falcons’ lead to 3-1.
Norman would counter Burack with a solo-shot homerun to right center field in the bottom of the inning to augment the Fighting Falcons’ lead to 4-1.
Infielder Troy Kifer helped the Fighting Falcons’ lead grow to 5-1 with his RBI single to right field that brought home catcher Scott Hessler.
Unlike the late drama in game one, the Fighting Falcons were able to close out the Rams fairly easily. After recording two outs, the Fighting Falcons dropped a foul ball. Entsminger and Kirk then came through with back-to-back singles to give the Rams life, but the game ended with senior catcher/pitcher Tyler Thomas grounding out to third base.
Redshirt-freshman pitcher Joe Rindone (L, 5-5) took the loss for the Rams. In his five innings of work, Rindone gave up seven hits, five earned runs, three walks, and six strikeouts.
Starting pitcher Tyler Holt (W, 2-2) had a near complete game. Holt (8.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO) clearly had his way with the Rams’ lineup all game long with his dominating performance.
On Sunday, the Rams host the Fighting Falcons for Senior Day, with a chance to clinch the North Division in the MEC with a win in either game. Game one starts at 1 p.m., followed by game two at 3:30 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com