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Wolchik, Alvarez help No. 20 Lander sweep Belmont Abbey

Lander first baseman Connor Lewis (17) got this out and also had one home run in each game Saturday in a doubleheader against Belmont Abbey. (Photo by Andrew Gordon)
Lander first baseman Connor Lewis (17) got this out and also had one home run in each game Saturday in a doubleheader against Belmont Abbey. (Photo by Andrew Gordon)

GREENWOOD – Connor Lewis homered twice, Erik Lunde had six hits and starting pitchers Dylan Wolchik and Taylor Alvarez each pitched shutout baseball as the 20th-ranked Lander Bearcats opened the 2014 season with a non-conference double-header sweep against Belmont Abbey Saturday afternoon at Dolny Stadium.

Lander won the first game 6-1 and the nightcap 10-1.

The Bearcats are 2-0 while the Crusaders are 0-2 under first-year head coach Chris Anderson, who was Lander head coach Kermit Smith's assistant five years at Belmont-Abbey (2005-09) and four years with the Bearcats (2010-13).

The teams will finish their three-game series Sunday afternoon at Belmont Abbey.

Wolchik and Alvarez each pitched six shutout innings, allowing a combined three hits in those 12 innings with 13 strikeouts.

Lunde was 6-for-8 in the double-header, going 3-for-4 in each game.

The Bearcats wasted no time getting their offense going in the 2014 season, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1. Lunde led off with a single up the middle, moved to third on Patrick Grady's single to right, and scored on Lewis's infield single off the first baseman's glove. Weston Lawing followed with a two-run double off the base of the fence in left center, making it 3-0.

Lander added two runs in the fourth after Zach Giczewski and Aaron Poole hit back-to-back one-out singles. Giczewski scored after Thomas Bess's fielder's choice led to an infield throwing error, and Bess scored on a balk.

Lewis led off the fifth with the first Bearcats homer of the season, a towering fly ball that landed just over the right-field wall.

Lander threatened to add to its lead in the sixth when Colby Painter was hit by a pitch and Bess crushed a ball to deep left, but Crusaders left fielder Lorenzo Wright made a spectacular catch, robbing Bess of a possible two-run home run.

Belmont Abbey ended the shutout bid in the seventh when Nick Beinlich hit a two-out single off Bearcats reliever JD Waite, stole second (becoming the first Crusaders runner to reach second) and scored on Weston Clarke's single to center.

Wolchik (1-0) had an outstanding season debut, allowing only one hit and one walk in six shutout innings. He struck out eight and didn't allow a runner past first base. Waite allowed one run on two hits in one inning of relief. Kyle Tate finished up with two shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out four as Lander pitchers fanned a total of 12.

Crusaders starter Cody Stull (0-1) allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings. He struck out seven with no walks. Tyler Byrnes worked the final three innings, allowing no runs on one hit, one walk and two strikeouts.

Lander's leading hitters in Game 1 were Lunde, 3-for-4; Lewis, 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI; Grady, 2-for-3; and Lawing, 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI.

No Belmont Abbey player had multiple hits in the opener.

The Bearcats began the second game the same way they did the opener, scoring three times in the first inning. Lunde hit a leadoff single, and Grady and Chris Hyatt were hit by pitches to load the bases. Lunde scored on a wild pitch, Grady crossed the plate on a passed ball, and Hyatt scored on Lawing's high chopper that bounced over the third baseman into left for a single.

Lander increased its lead to 4-0 in the second when Lewis smashed his second homer of the day, a line drive just to the right of the batter's eye wall in right center.

The Bearcats added two runs in the fourth, making it 6-0. Painter singled, Bess was hit by a pitch, and Lunde singled to load the bases. Grady drove in one run with an infield single, and Bess scored when Lewis grounded into a double play.

Lander increased its lead to 10-0 in the fifth. Lawing and Graham Ramos singled and each moved up a base on Thomas Berry's sacrifice bunt. Painter hit a two-run single, Bess singled, and Lunde's sixth hit of the day was a two-run single.

Belmont Abbey ended the shutout bid in the ninth when Levi Wright doubled in a run.

Alvarez (1-0), like Wolchik, pitched six shutout innings, allowing two hits while striking out five and walking one in his Bearcats debut. Matt Thorpe and Bryce Clifton each pitched an inning of shutout relief while Johnny Walker allowed one run in the ninth.

Crusaders starter Parks Smithey (0-1) allowed eight runs on nine hits in four innings, striking out three and walking two. Reliever Brandon O'Sullivan allowed two runs in one-third of an inning. Forrest Buchanan, Kyle Rogers and Dakota Irwin finished up.

Leading hitters for Lander were Lunde and Lawing, each 3-for-4; and Painter, 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI.