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Through five innings of Friday’s opening game of a doubleheader in Fleming Stadium, the Barton College baseball team trailed North Greenville University, No. 4-ranked in NCAA Division II, only 2-1.
From that point, the proverbial roof caved in. The Bulldogs lost the nine-inning opener 8-1 and were defeated 14-3 in the seven-inning second game. Again, the Bulldogs trailed only 2-1 — until the Crusaders exploded for 12 runs in the top of the sixth inning.
The teams complete the three-game Conference Carolinas series and Barton’s season with a single game on Barton College’s Nixon Field diamond at noon Saturday. North Greenville, with Friday’s sweep, clinched the regular-season championship over Belmont Abbey (16-4) and University of Mount Olive (17-5).
Barton, scrambling to stay out of last place in the nine-team league, sank to 4-18 in the league and to 12-35 in all games. North Greenville advanced to 20-3 and 38-6, respectively.
Senior right-hander Fennell, the conference leader in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings, makes his final career start Saturday, seeking his seventh win against four losses. Senior outfielder Rich Trifaro also plays his final game.
In the opener, Barton junior right-hander Dylan Ward kept the Crusaders in check through five innings. But first baseman Andrew Plunkett connected for his ninth 2018 home run, a two-run shot in the sixth. North Greenville tagged freshman reliever Austin Lee for three more runs in the eighth.
Shortstop Gatlin Pate doubled and scored on a wild pitch for Barton’s run in the fourth.
Left fielder Josh Black collected three hits, while right fielder Jeffrey Chandler banged out a pair for North Greenville. Plunkett and second baseman Jared Williams each drove in two runs.
In game 2, freshman Barton right-hander Alex Hart responded with his longest stint of five innings; the Buldogs trailed 2-1. However, Hart failed to retire a batter and yielded five more runs in the disastrous sixth.
Catcher John Jones, right fielder Jeffrey Chandler and first baseman Ryan Brown each homered for North Greenville in the sixth. Brown also doubled and drove in three runs. John Jones and shortstop Utah Jones each wound up with three RBI.
The Bulldogs of first-year head coach Jim Chester trimmed the deficit to 2-1 in the fifth, when freshman third baseman Colby Warren hammered his team-leading 11th homer. Junior shortstop Gatlin Pate, junior right fielder Troy Maslowski and sophomore catche Noah Almond each added a hit. Maslowski and Almond each doubled.
Warren’s homer was the only hit off North Greenville starter Ethan Garner (7-1) in a five-inning stint. Garner struck out nine and three Crusaders pitchers notched 13 strikeouts in seven innings.
Score by innings:
N. Greenville 011 003 030 — 8
Barton 000 100 000 — 1
WP-Blake Hamilton (4-2) 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO. LP-Dylan Ward (1-7) 6 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — North Greenville: Josh Black 3-5, 2 2B, RBI; Jeffrey Chandler 2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI; Andrew Plunkett 1-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R; Jared Williams 1-3, 2 RBI; Barton: Kimball Toone 1-1, Colby Warren 1-3, Alec Seaton 1-3, 2B; Gatlin Pate 1-4, 2B, R; Troy Maslowski 1-4.
Score by innings:
N. Greenville 011 0012 0 — 14
Barton 000 010 2 — 3
WP-Ethan Garner (7-1) 5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO. LP-Alex Hart (0-8) 5 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — North Greenville: Utah Jones 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R; John Jones 1-4, HR, 3 RBI; Connor Grant 2-3, 2B, 2 R; Jeffrey Chandler 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R; Ryan Brown 2-3, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R; Barton: Troy Maslowski 1-3, 2B, RBI; Noah Almond 1-3, 2B, RBI; Colby Warren 1-3, HR, RBI; Gatlin Pate 1-3.