Spartanburg, S.C. – Ryne Hardwick drove in the game-winning run with a pinch hit double in the eighth, and Skylar Hunter locked down the lead with two innings of perfect relief as The Citadel evened its weekend series at Wofford with a 9-8 victory over the Terriers.
The Bulldogs improved to 13-7 overall and 3-2 in the SoCon with their eighth win in the past 10 games while Wofford dropped to 8-12 and 1-4 in the league. The teams will play the rubber game of the three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m.
After Wofford battled back from an 8-3 deficit to tie the game in the seventh, Tyler Griffin and Johnathan Stokes drew walks to lead off the top of the eighth. Calvin Orth sacrificed the runners up one base, and Hardwick lofted a fly ball that dropped in medium left center to score Griffin to put The Citadel back in front.
Hardwick was making only his sixth plate appearance of the season but came through with his third hit including second double and first RBI. The double was the fourth of the game for The Citadel, tying its season high, and seventh extra base hit of the contest, a new season best.
Hunter came in to start the bottom of the eighth and proceeded to strike out the side. After the Bulldogs were retired in the top of the ninth, Hunter breezed through the bottom of the frame, getting a ground out and two pop outs, with Hunter himself taking care of one of the infield flies, to record his fifth save of the season.
Hunter has 16 strikeouts in only 9 2/3 innings during the early portion of his freshman year. David Rivera got the final two outs in the seventh and was credited with the win to move his record to 3-0. The junior right hander has not allowed an earned run in 17 innings and has two walks and 18 strikeouts.
The Bulldogs appeared on their way to a comfortable win when they scored four times in the fifth to build an 8-3 cushion. Hughston Armstrong doubled and scored on a Bo Thompson single, and Griffin followed with a three-run blast to right center, his sixth homer of the year and second of the series.
That home run was the third of the game for The Citadel and the 20th of the season, a figure that already exceeds the total for the entire 2012 campaign. Griffin also increased his RBI total to a team-leading 24.
But the Terriers began their search for a second straight come-from-behind win in the series when they tallied a run in the bottom of the fifth and added three more in the sixth, including a two-run homer by Matthew Pelt off Logan Cribb that barely cleared the fence in left center. Wofford completed its comeback in its next at-bat when a sacrifice fly by Josh Hyman brought in the tying run.
The game started out as a variation of home run derby, with Thompson and Hyman hitting two-run blasts in the first. The round tripper was the seventh of the year for Thompson, one more than Justin Mackert hit when he led the Bulldogs in that category a year ago. The sophomore slugger had three RBI in the game to give him 20 on the year.
The Citadel retook the lead in the second on back-to-back doubles by Calvin Orth and Bret Hines to open the inning, with Orth extending his hitting streak to a career-long eight with his two-base knock. Joe Jackson made it 4-2 the following inning with his second home run of the season and third of his career, an opposite field shot to left center.
The Bulldogs finished with 10 hits, the fifth straight game that The Citadel has reached double figures in that department and 11th time through the opening 20 contests of the year.
Wofford starter Jesse Morris went the first six innings and was tagged for eight hits and eight runs, all earned, while walking two and striking out six. Bulldog starter James Reeves was lifted after three innings and surrendered three hits and three runs (two earned). All four of the runs off Cribb were unearned.
Freshman right hander Austin Mason (1-1, 4.84 ERA) will take the ball for The Citadel in the series finale on Sunday. He will be opposed by freshman righy Luke Leftwich (1-1, 5.65).