BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The fourth-ranked Birmingham-Southern baseball team returned home from the RussMat Invitational in Florida, where the Panthers won two of three contests against 2014 Division III Championship participants, splitting with Berry College on Saturday at Striplin Field. The Panthers won the first game, 6-2, before falling in game two, 2-0.
BSC moves to 17-3 overall and into a tie with Rhodes atop the Southern Athletic Association standings at 7-1. Berry is now 13-10 on the season and 5-3 in the SAA.
In game one, senior Blake Stevens (5-0) was dominant on the mound for the Panthers. For the third time in his six starts, Stevens did not yield an earned run and for the second time in the 2015 campaign earned a complete-game victory.
Stevens' mastery from the hill was matched by his team's performance at the plate as the BSC offense got off to a fast start, putting up three runs in the bottom of the first. The Panthers struck first with a two-out single from sophomore Zach Wingate that scored senior Jacob Mayfield. Two batters later a triple to right center off the bat of sophomore Jack Rhodes brought home both Wingate and sophomore Sam Roberts, who reached base one batter earlier with a single up the middle.
After Stevens retired the side in order in the top of the second, BSC put another run on the board in the bottom half of the inning when junior Taylor McCracken's single scored fellow junior Matt Brown.
Berry posted its first run of the contest in the fourth, but BSC had an immediate answer in the bottom of the fourth when Brown's single to left plated junior Nathan Qualls to give the Panthers a 5-1 lead. A similar story played out in the sixth when Berry again scored in the top of the inning and the Panthers responded with a run to match in the bottom of the frame. Once again, it was Brown earning the RBI when his single to left brought Rhodes home.
BSC's 6-2 lead was more than enough for Stevens as he surrendered only one more hit the rest of the way while fanning two.
At the plate BSC was led by Brown's game-high three hits and two RBI, a feat that was matched by Rhodes's two RBI.
The nightcap of the doubleheader was far less kind to the Panthers as sophomore Ryan Gaines (4-1) dropped his first decision of the year despite only giving up two runs over the course of his complete-game outing. Gaines struck out three, walked one, and scattered 10 hits throughout his seven innings of work. Unfortunately BSC was stymied at the plate, managing only three hits and four walks, while leaving six on base.
The two teams return to the Hilltop tomorrow afternoon for the rubber game of the SAA series at 1 p.m.