Lexington, Ky. – The popular sports platitude, "It's not how you start, but how you finish" was proven foolhardy by the early March waning daylight as the Transylvania baseball team fell 11-10 to Spalding in seven innings in a game called due to darkness.
The Pioneers fell behind 10-2 to the visiting Spalding Golden Eagles in the 2016 home opener at Marquard Field in Lexington but mounted eight combined runs between the final sixth and seventh innings of the shortened contest to create a new game.
Unfortunately, players from the Pioneers and Eagles had to revisit their childhood nostalgia when it was "time to come in for the night" as the sun began setting at 6:45 p.m., quickly making the ball hard to see on the field even five minutes later. Pioneers head coach Chris Campbell and Spalding skipper Matt Downs convened at 6:52 p.m. once the seventh inning concluded and determined that the game could not go on.
The Eagles headed back home to Louisville with the 11th crucial run and their fifth win of the season to improve to 5-2, while the Pioneers fell to 4-4 after the midweek loss that almost felt more like a case of time running out.
The Eagles got off to a quick start in the first inning, plating two runs on three hits, and expanded their lead to 7-2 by the middle of the fourth inning. The Pioneers posted one run in the second and third innings to keep the deficit from completely getting out of hand. Trey Simpson was walked with the bases loaded in the second with two outs, but the Pioneers could not produce anything further from the inning. A Connor Blevins double in the third scored Hunter Jones but the Eagles escaped without any further damage.
Spalding added one more run in the fifth and another in the sixth to craft a discouraging 10-2 deficit for the Pioneers, but with the home team looking at two quick outs in the bottom of the sixth, Transylvania found the resolve and focus they had lacked all night.
The sixth inning drama began with shortshop Jared Williams grounding into a bases-loaded 4-3 double play that scored Blake Hart from third base to make the score 10-3, Spalding. Hunter Jones then followed with an RBI double to score Kyle Dugle from third for a quick two-run response. Connor Blevins turned the momentum up another level with an RBI single to drive in Jones, and Rex Rogers then delivered a single to the right field alley to bring in Blevens for a quick four-run inning.
After Spalding scored one more run in the top of the seventh for an 11-6 lead, Transylvania charged back again in the bottom frame. After Blake Hart led off the inning with a single, an error by the Spalding catcher allowed him to advance to second base. A Simpson double drove in Hart to bring Transy back within four once more. Williams atoned for his previous inning double-play with an RBI single to score Simpson, setting the stage for an exciting finish at 11-8. Williams made his way to third on another wild pitch as the ball came unraveled from Spalding's late-inning relievers. Another immediate wild pitch got away from the Eagles' catcher and Williams raced home to get his hand on home plate to pull Transylvania within two.
Spalding then inserted reliever Hayden Davenport with two outs left in the seventh and the simultaneous anticipation of a Transylvania comeback combined with the realization of a rapidly setting sun.
Facing Davenport, Rogers grounded out for a fielder's choice while Jones scored on the play, making the score 11-10 in favor of Spalding. Ross then struck out looking on the next at-bat to conclude the seventh inning, and effectively the game.
Simpson, Blevins, and Rogers each had two RBIs each, and also combined for seven hits. Five different Pioneers had two or more hits. Each team tabbed 14 hits, while three early Transylvania errors hindered their efforts in a shortened-innings defeat.
Transylvania will aim to beat the sun with plenty of time to spare when they next take the field this Saturday for a doubleheader with Otterbein. Game 1 is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. with Game 2 to follow afterwards at 3:00 p.m.
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