UNION — Spencer Rash pitched USC Union to a 5-0 win on Saturday in its season opening baseball game against Furman, and a couple of key hits in the final innings of the second game helped the Bantams to 4-3 win.
Rash hurled seven shutout innings. He gave up just two hits and four walks while striking out six.
“Spencer pitched a great game,” said USC Union Head Coach Paul Wilkes. “He really mixed his pitches up well and kept the Furman hitters guessing all game. He did walk four batters, but he bared down and didn’t allow a run to score.”
The Bantams were also hot at the plate, touching up southpaw Corey Sanders for 10 hits in the first game. USCU took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Dontee Stewart smacked a triple and was driven in by David Henderson’s RBI single.
Michael Wood doubled to deep center field in the bottom of the fifth. Alec Acevedo followed up with a grounder that Furman’s shortstop couldn’t handle and USCU had runners on the corners with one out. When Sanders’ next pitch got past his catcher, Wilkes gave the green light from third and Woods dove safely into home. Nick Owen singled to left field advancing Acevedo to third before the Bantams collected their second run of the inning off another passed ball for the 3-0 score.
In the top of the sixth, Rash seated the first batter with a strikeout and a double play brought USCU back to the dugout.
Wood drilled a hit to right-center for a stand up triple and stole home to pad the Bantams’ lead at 4-0.
Furman picked up its second hit of the game in the seventh but left the runner stranded when Rash issued back to back K’s.
Wood went three for four with a double and two triples, scored two runs and was named player of the game.
“Michael Wood had an outstanding day at the plate in both games,” said Wilkes. “He was also very solid in the field. He is very coachable player who can and will play every position on the field this season.”
Henderson went two for three with two singles and an RBI. Stewart went two for three with a triple and a single and an RBI. Patrick Toney went one for three with a single. Acevedo was one for four with a double. Taylor Sims drove in 2 RBI’s and Owen had a single and a RBI.
Twenty minutes later, the Bantams looked to be in trouble, spotting Furman a 3-0 lead in the second game. Corey Robertson got the start from the hill but after allowing three unearned runs he was relieved by Hunter Watts who ended the inning with a strikeout.
“Cory had trouble finding the strike zone in the early going and walked in three runs so I made the switch,” said Wilkes. “Hunter has a funky looking submarine delivery. Hitters aren’t used to seeing the ball being released at such a low angle. He also throws the ball with pretty good velocity.”
While Watts kept the Furman offense off balance, Wood went two for four at the plate and scored two runs to close the lead to 3-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth.Henderson, the pinch hitter, smashed a towering home run that was found on the railroad tracks behind field #5 to tie the game and give the Bantams new life heading into the seventh.
“I was hoping it was going to stay fair,” said Wilkes. “It started to hook and just barely stayed in. We really needed that home run.”
Sims drove in the winning run in the seventh inning with an RBI single.
“Taylor also made a great diving catch in center field,” noted Wilkes. “I have seen him make outstanding catches all fall in center-field. He is very exciting to watch out there.”
Sims was named Player of the Game along with Watts and Henderson.
“I have to name all three because this win was a total team effort,” said Wilkes. “Hunter came in and shut the door on the mound, not allowing another run to score. David’s home run in the Bottom of the sixth really changed the game too, and Taylor Sims drove in the winning run.”
USCU scattered eight hits to Furman’s two hits. Watts threw 6 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts, no walks and allowed two hits.
“I was really proud of the guys Saturday, said Wilkes. “We got our first two wins in program history. We were fundamentally sound on defense with no errors, we hit the ball very well, and our pitchers threw the ball great. I told the team we will celebrate the wins this weekend, but we will get back to work on Monday.”
Wood was two for four in the game with a single and a double, scored two runs and had a stolen base. Watts went one for four with a single and stolen base, Sims was one for three with a single, a stolen base, had the game winning RBI and also scored a run. Stewart was one for two with a single, Karderius “Bubba” Means was one for three with a single and stolen base and Jaquane Foster was one for two with a single.