ROCKY MOUNT, N.C.-- After losing their last seven games, and 12 of 13, the Covenant baseball team got back into the win column with a 3-2 win in game one of Saturday's doubleheader at North Carolina Wesleyan.
Covenant led 15-11 after eight innings in game two before the game was suspended due to darkness. The game will be picked up in the top of the ninth on Monday before the scheduled nine-inning affair.
Covenant goes to 8-13 on the year and 5-8 inside the USA South. N.C. Wesleyan drops to 6-20 overall and 4-19 in league action.
Game 1: Covenant 3, N.C. Wesleyan 2
A pitcher's duel from the get-go, Covenant scratched two runs across in the top of the ninth to take game one 3-2.
N.C. Wesleyan starter Ryan Grant and Covenant's Micah Mabe matched each other pitch for pitch as the game was scoreless through the first three innings and both teams combined for only three hits.
After Covenant again went quietly in the top of the fourth, Mabe got into trouble going through the middle of the Bishops order for the second time. Mabe gave up three hits and two runs in the inning after giving up just one hit through the first three.
Mabe was able to settle down after the shaky fourth, working around hits in the fifth and the sixth and stranding two runners in each inning.
Meanwhile, the Scots continued to be stymied by Grant, who continued his strong pitching through the sixth inning giving up just four hits and one walk while striking out four.
Covenant seemed to catch a break when Grant was replaced in the seventh by Joseph Borderging, who walked Z Arima with one out in the inning. Arima was pinch-run for at first by Jay Epperson. Epperson stole second and, with two outs, scored on KC Simons' RBI single to make it 2-1. Simons was able to make it into scoring position, but was stranded there to end the inning.
After both teams traded scoreless frames in the eighth, Covenant went into the top of the ninth still trailing 2-1.
Leadoff hitter Will Cleland got things going against N.C. Wesleyan reliever pitcher George Moore (3-3) with a single to left before stealing second to put the tying run in scoring position. The next batter, Forrest Hunter, reached on a dropped third strike as Cleland took third. A double-steal by Cleland and pinch-runner Devin Cerrato tied the score, and an RBI groundout by Simons proved to be the winning run as Covenant took a 3-2 lead.
Mabe (3-3) made it stand up, retiring the last eight batters he faced to get his first victory since March 7. In nine innings of work, Mabe gave up two runs while scattering eight hits. He walked none and struck out nine.
Game 2: Covenant 15, N.C. Wesleyan 11 (SUSPENDED until March 30)
As game one was a pitcher's duel, so game two was a slugfest. Covenant leads the game 15-11 going to the top of the ninth inning when play resumes on Monday.
The Scots got things rolling with two manufactured runs in the second. Will Carlton singled and stole second, scoring on Perry Rigby's single. Rigby was moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Cleland and scored on a double by Hunter.
Covenant added another run in the fourth, when Cleland doubled home Rigby, and three more in the fifth to take a 6-0 lead. Carlton and Rigby were again in the midst of the rally as each collected an RBI in the inning. Scott Gillespie drove in the other run with a double.
After the Battling Bishops finally got on the board with two runs off starter Jonah Paul, the Scots answered with an eight-run inning in the top of the sixth. Caleb Bloye, Kyle Delk, Rigby and Cleland all had RBI singles in the inning while Epperson added a sacrifice fly. At the time, the big inning gave the Scots a 14-2 lead.
N.C. Wesleyan started to rally with four runs in the sixth, three more in the seventh and two in the eighth to cut into the Scots' lead.
Jonah Paul started and went five innings allowing two runs on seven hits and is in line for the win should Covenant hang on.
Covenant and N.C. Wesleyan will play game three of the series on Monday after the conclusion of the suspended game.