ST. CATHARINE – Zak Sutherland moved to 3-1 with a dazzling performance on the mound in the nightcap and the University of Pikeville lost a big lead in game one to split with St. Catharine (Ky.) 7-5 and 1-0 in its Mid-South Conference openers on Friday.
Sutherland went the distance in the seven-inning contest, shutting out the Patriots while allowing just three hits and striking out six batters without a walk. The game was truly a pitcher’s duel as Andrew Nelson (0-2) went seven innings as well, allowing one run on two hits with seven batters sent down on strikes.
After being walked five times and hitting three singles, the Bears enjoyed a 5-0 lead after the first inning of game one, but failed to score another run in the next eight frames. Instead, St. Catharine chipped away at the lead until it grabbed a 7-5 lead in the eighth inning.
Third baseman Erik Manning led the UPIKE offense by doing a lot with a little. Manning collected just two hits on the day, but was able to tally three walks, two RBIs, three stolen bases and scored a run.
Manning and catcher Cody Chagnon provided the only two hits for the Bears in the win, with Manning driving home shortstop Chaz Contreras, who had reached on an error, with a sacrifice fly.
Starter John Werner likely felt lost at the start of the day as it looked like UPIKE would never stop hitting in the first inning. Eleven batters made it into the batter’s box as four of the five runs came home on bases-loaded walks. Right fielder Corey Adams had the only RBI single with a shot to shallow centerfield.
St. Catharine stuck with their guy and it paid off as Werner only gave up three more hits in 6-2/3 innings of work with nine strikeouts. Trenton Claunch (1-2) threw 1-1/3 innings of perfect setup pitching to take the win before Jake McCoy picked up the save in the ninth, allowing just one hit.
The Patriots made the majority of their comeback with a three-run second inning before adding single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to tie the game at 5-5. Corey Gilligan was on the mound for UPIKE in those seven innings, scattering six hits for five runs with four strikeouts.
Michael Vaquera took over the tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning and got off to a rock start with first baseman Danny Jiminez reaching on an error. Third baseman Ty Broady sent a single down the right-field line in the next at-bat which brought Jiminez around for what would be the winning run.
With all the offensive excitement of the opener, game two had a completely different feel as both teams waited for somebody to get to their respective pitchers.
After five innings of scoreless baseball, Pikeville did just that in the sixth as Contreras was on base after an error and came around to score the game’s lone run on a sacrifice fly by Manning.
With the win, Pikeville moved to 10-6 overall, its best record since having the same mark to start the 2005 season. The Bears and Patriots wrap up the series at Noon ET on Saturday with a single, nine-inning game.