Mt. Berry, Ga. - The Berry College baseball team was one out away from upsetting 20th-ranked Union University on Friday afternoon, but the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth and eventually won a 12-8 affair in 12 innings at the Vikings’ Bowdoin Field. Union, the defending TranSouth Conference champion, opened the 2003 conference schedule with a win, while Berry squandered yet another lead. In five of the Vikings’ eight losses this year, they have held a lead at some point in the game.
On a warm, sunny, early-spring afternoon, the Berry-Union game started out as a pitchers’ duel. Viking senior starter Travis Hope mowed down the first nine Bulldog batters of the game, while Union junior starter Cory Engle only gave up one hit through three innings. It was scoreless until the top of the fourth, when the Bulldogs scored two runs on an error and a ground out. The Vikings got one run back in the bottom of the fourth on a solo home run by senior Nick Sun, but Berry exploded for five runs in the sixth to take a commanding 6-2 lead. Junior Tyler Coats and senior Josh Griffith each had RBI singles, and Michael Moore drove home a run on a fielder’s choice. However, a throwing error allowed Moore to reach first, and he later scored when freshman Jack Cash ripped a two-run double. Berry tacked on another run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Griffith that plated sophomore Nick Hopper, and the Vikes led 7-2.
However, Union got a three-run double by senior Jed Thomas in the top of the eighth to narrow the gap to 7-5. Berry managed to get out of that inning, and junior reliever Chuck Smith later had two outs in the ninth when the Bulldogs started to rally. After a hit batter and a balk, junior Joel Hysmith singled and took second on the throw. Freshman Brandon Jackson then ripped a two-run single to tie the game 7-7. Union went in front 8-7 in the top of the 11th inning, when junior Jason Johnson hit an RBI single, and then it was Berry’s turn to rally. The Vikings got an RBI double by sophomore Patrick Stevens to even the score 8-8 heading into the 12th inning. However, the Bulldogs notched four runs in their half of the 12th, with sophomore Josh Allen belting a three-run homer and freshman Steven Sweat adding an RBI double.
Thomas finished the game going 3-for-6 with four RBI for Union, while Allen was 2-for-5 with three RBI. Jackson also went 2-for-5 with two RBI. For Berry, Coats and Griffith were each 2-for-5, with Griffith adding two RBI. Sun was 2-for-5 with an RBI, while senior Corey Teem finished the game 3-for-6. On the mound, Bulldog junior Todd Winchester earned the win in relief, pitching the last four innings and giving up just one run on four hits with four strikeouts. Engle left after five and two-thirds innings, allowing six runs on nine hits with two strikeouts. For Berry, Hope went seven and two-thirds innings before leaving, giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits, with five strikeouts and one walk. Senior Ryan Deems took the loss, allowing four runs on five hits with one strikeout in one inning of work. Smith, freshman Patrick Guillory, and sophomore Chris Tanton also pitched for the Vikings.
Union improves to 12-2 overall and 1-0 in the TranSouth, while Berry falls to 8-8-1 overall and 0-1 in the conference. These two teams will meet again Saturday in a doubleheader beginning at noon EST at Bowdoin Field.