#7 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) takes two from #6 Point Park in NAIA Top-10 matchup
March 8, 2013 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Nathan Sphon was the tough-luck loser in Game 2, losing 2-1 in 8.1 innings of work. Photo by Kevin Taylor.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- No. 7 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) got the better of No. 6 Point Park with a doubleheader sweep in matchup of NAIA baseball Top-10 teams on Friday afternoon in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Eagles, ranked just behind the Pioneers in the NAIA Baseball Coaches' Preseason Poll, got a few more key hits and their pitchers gave up only two earned runs on the day in winning both games, 8-3 and 2-1.
Embry-Riddle (18-3) won the second game on Dillon Ennis', walk-off, RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. The game was scheduled for seven innings but went into extras as the pitcher's duel extended into the evening.
The losses drop Point Park to 7-7 overall, and the Pioneers are now done with their week-long stay in Florida. The Pioneers played eight games at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational with a 5-3 record before stopping off at Daytona Beach on the way back home.
The Embry-Riddle pitching staff, which entered the day with a team ERA of 1.88, got great pitching from left-handed starters Kevin Maloney and Stetson Nelson. Lefty reliever Eric Green came on for the save the first game and got the win in two innings of relief in the nightcap.
Point Park countered with some good pitching of its own highlighted by sophomore left-hander Nate Sphon's outing in game two. The 5-7 native of Greensburg, Pa., who entered the game with a 12.88 ERA and an 0-2 record after his first two starts, rebounded to toss 8.1 innings with only two runs against.
Sphon went the distance, scattering eight hits and getting out of a few jams along the way before allowing Ennis' game-winner with one out in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2. A lead-off single and a base hit to the hole at short set the table for the winning hit.
Sean Clark, Point Park's Game 1 starter, did well in keeping the Eagles off the scoreboard the first four innings, but they broke through later in his outing. Clark took the loss after giving up four runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth.
Point Park was leading the opener, 3-1, before Embry-Riddle took control with its four-run rally in the fifth. The back-breaker for Clark and the Pioneers was the biggest hit of the game -- Adam Cellini's bases-loaded triple that brough home three runs with two outs.
Down, 5-3, Point Park had the makings of a rally in the sixth inning, especially after chasing ERAU starter Maloney. But Green came on in a first-and-third jam with one out in the sixth and got out of it unscatched by getting a double play on a fly out to right and a tag out at the plate.
After ERAU tacked on its three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth for an 8-3 lead, that was more than enough for Green, who picked up his fourth save with a scoreless seventh. Green was a huge difference in the doubleheader as he came in to put the clamps on both games after the Pioneers knocked out the Eagles' starters.
Green entered the day with a 1.84 ERA as one of the Eagles' main relievers. Winning pitcher Maloney, the starter, gave up only one earned run on six hits through 5.1 innings. He struck out one and walked one. His ERA was 1.38 entering the series.
Point Park took a 2-1 lead early in Game 1 with two unearned runs in the second. After Marlon Leyva reached on an error and then moved up on a hit batter and a wild pitch. Tom Pasinski followed with an RBI groundout, and Jonathan Tasis delivered a sacrifice fly.
Leyva extended Point Park's lead to 3-1 with his solo home run in the third, which was the only big mistake by Maloney in the game. Tom Birko and Chaz Russo were both 2 for 3 to lead the Pioneers' seven-hit attack.
In Game 2, Point Park's Sphon and ERAU's Nelson -- a couple of sophomore lefties -- engaged in a classic pitchers duel. Neither team could get much going as the game remained scoreless the first 4.5 innings.
Although Sphon had stranded runners at second and third in the second inning and at first and third in the fourth, The Eagles were able to finally push across a run in the fifth for a 1-0 lead. To do it, they used a walk, a sacrifice bunt, an infield field single and finally a sacrifice fly by Jordan Johnson.
Nelson, a transfer from Winthrop who entered the day 4-1 with a 1.66 ERA, gave up only one hit the first five innings before Point Park got a couple of hits to tie things up at 1-1 in the sixth. Don McDuffee led off with a single, and he was sacrificed to second by Rob Novia.
Tom Birko moved McDuffee up to third on a groundout before Javy Marticorena delivered the key hit, an RBI single with two outs. Marticorena battled through an eight-pitch at bat for the tying base knock.
But that turned out to be the last key hit that the Pioneers would get in the game. The Pioneers put Maloney on the ropes with runners at second and third with one out in the seventh, but the Eagles called on the bullpen once again, and this time brought in closer Ronnie Lozada. He got the next two batters on a strikeout and a fly out as the Pioneers came up empty at a chance to take the lead.
Just like he had been doing all game, Sphon set the Eagles down quietly in the seventh, and again Point Park had things going its next turn at bat after two walks by Lozada to start the eighth. ERAU pulled Lozada in favor of Green, who retired the next three in order as Point Park could not come up with the key RBI.
Point Park never got anything going again with Green on the hill, and the Eagles eventually got the run they needed to win. The Pioneers had four hits in the game, and none of them came against the Eagles' bullpen of Lozada and Green. The bullpen was a big factor with no runs and a total of one hit given up on the day.
Point Park returns to action at Shawnee State (Ohio) for a non-conference doubleheader Wednesday, March 13 at 12 p.m. The Pioneers open Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play March 15-16 at Asbury (Ky.) University for a four-game series.
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