WILSON, N.C. -- Steven Kirby's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth helped propel Methodist to a 6-3 USA South Conference victory over Covenant on Thursday evening at historic Fleming Stadium.
Kirby's first home run of the year broke a 3-3 tie after Covenant (20-9, 14-5 USA South) rallied to match Methodist (18-11, 12-7 USA South) in the top half of the sixth.
The Monarchs added another insurance run on an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly in the eighth. Meanwhile, right-hander Josh Ayers pitched the final three innings to earn his seventh save of the season as the Monarchs took the opening game of the three-game series.
Methodist grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second inning with some timely hitting. Tyler Hardee and Pete Wildeboer had back-to-back one-out singles, and Hardee came home for the first run on Steven Kirby's double to right-center.Wildeboer came home moments later on a wild pitch, and the Monarchs added the third run on Lucas Scott's safety squeeze bunt.
Covenant immediately closed the gap to 3-1 in the top of the third. Following a leadoff walk to Paul Phillips, Scott Gillespie laced an RBI double to right-center to put the Scots on the scoreboard. Covenant tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the sixth. Gillespie led off with a double to right-center before coming home on Perry Rigby's triple to nearly the same spot. Rigby later scored on Chris Rollins' sacrifice fly.
The tie didn't last long, however. In the bottom half of the inning, Wildeboer reached on a one-out single to set up Kirby, who crushed the two-run homer over the fence in left field to put Methodist back in front 5-3. Kirby finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored to lead the Methodist offense.
Methodist starter Travis Johnson (4-3) earned the win, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Covenant's Micah Mabe (2-2) took the loss in six innings of work.
Gillespie had two of Covenant's five hits.
The two teams continue their three-game series on Friday with a 2:30 p.m. game at Five County Stadium in Zebulon.