Lander outlasts Mars Hill twice in double-header sweep

Bearcat catcher Reed Gray blocks a ball during Lander's doubleheader victory over Mars Hill on Sunday (Photo by Joshua S. Kelly)
Bearcat catcher Reed Gray blocks a ball during Lander's doubleheader victory over Mars Hill on Sunday (Photo by Joshua S. Kelly)

GREENWOOD – The Lander Bearcats recorded their first double-header sweep of the season Sunday afternoon, winning a pair of seven-inning games over Mars Hill University 5-2 and 1-0 at Dolny Stadium.

Lander improved to 4-7 while the Lions fell to 7-4. The Bearcats won the series two games to one, their first series win of 2017.

Lander scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to break a 2-all tie in Game 1, then three pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts as the Bearcats blanked Mars Hill in the nightcap holding the Lions to 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

After Saturday's scheduled double-header was reduced to one game due to a two-hour weather delay, the teams agreed to play two seven-inning games Sunday.

Lander took a 1-0 lead in the third inning of Game 1 when Mason Dodd hit a leadoff double and scored on Colton Yeager's two-out single past the shortstop.

Mars Hill pulled even in the top of the fourth when Brett Brubaker hit his second homer of the season, a towering shot over the right field fence.

The Lions went up 2-1 in the top of the fifth when Gray McCurry doubled into the left-field corner and scored on Cody Cline's single to left.

The Bearcats tied it in the bottom of the fifth when Dodd lined a homer over the right-field fence, his second of the season.

Lander finally broke through with three runs in the sixth for a 5-2 lead. Bailey Connell reached second when the Mars Hill second baseman dropped his towering pop up to short right, stole third and scored on Nathan Schreckengost's single to shallow center. Carson Jones followed with a two-run homer, launching a full count pitch off the top of the fence in center, approximately 401 feet from home plate. It was his first home run of the season.

Bearcats reliever Joseph Whitt struck out the side in the top of the seventh to close out the win.

Whitt (1-1) earned the victory, allowing no runs on one hit in two innings, walking two and striking out six. JD Waite started for Lander, making his first appearance of the season. Waite yielded two runs on six hits in five innings.

Kaleb McCurry (1-1) took the loss for Mars Hill, allowing three runs, two earned, on two hits in 1.1 innings of relief. Starting pitcher Zac Brown gave up two runs on four hits in 4.2 innings of work, walking one and fanning six.

Dodd was Lander's leading hitter in Game 1, going 2-for-3 with a double, homer, two runs scored and an RBI. Jones was 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBI.

Brubaker was the top batter for the Lions in the opener, going 2-for-3 with a home run.

The Bearcats scored what proved to be the only run of Game 2 in the second inning when Schreckengost doubled to right, hustled to third when Jones flied out to deep center, and trotted home on Zach Giczewski's double.

That lead held up despite several Mars Hill scoring threats, including loading the bases in the fifth and another big opportunity in the seventh.

Lander freshman reliever Marshall Thompson clinched the victory in style in the seventh. Daniel Vitello hit a leadoff double to right and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Travis Owens. Thompson intentionally walked Brubaker, and Devin Mangum pinch ran. Mangum stole second, putting the potential go-ahead run in scoring position. But Thompson struck out the final two batters swinging for his first career save.

Lander starting pitcher Garrett Lovorn worked three shutout innings working in and out of trouble with a high pitch count, allowing two hits while walking four and striking out seven.

The trend continued with Bearcats reliever Cameron Tekker, who stranded the bases loaded in his second inning of work (the fifth) by striking out the final two batters. Tekker (1-0) walked two and fanned four in his two innings and was credited with the win. Thompson fanned four in two innings of work, giving the staff 15 strikeouts in just seven innings in Game 2.

Troy Hall (0-1) started on the mound for Mars Hill, allowing one run on two hits in four innings including one walk and one strikeout. Reliever Tom Mastrodonato struck out four Lander batters in the fifth, with one reaching on a wild pitch. He finished with five strikeouts in two innings.

Each team was held to three hits in Game 2.