BLUEFIELD, Va. — For the University of Rio Grande baseball team, Sunday’s doubleheader against Bluefield (Va.) College turned out to be far from the optimum follow-up showing to, arguably, the club’s biggest win of the season.
The homestanding Rams rallied late to win game one and then never trailed in game two, sweeping the RedStorm, 5-4 and 5-2, in Mid-South Conference action at sunny Bowen Field.
Rio Grande, which posted a 12-0 mercy rule-shortened win in the series opener on Saturday night, slipped to 16-22 overall and 4-14 in league play with the losses.
Head coach Brad Warnimont’s team finds itself 2-1/2 games out of eighth place in the league with only nine conference contests remaining. The top eight teams in the 10-team league qualify for the post-season tournament in early May.
Bluefield, which improved to 24-11 overall and 8-9 in the MSC, currently sits in seventh place in the conference standings, two games ahead of the University of the Cumberlands and the University of Pikeville.
However, the league’s near top-to-bottom logjam has the Rams just two games behind Campbellsville University and Shawnee State University, who are tied for second behind current leader Georgetown College.
In game one, Rio Grande rallied from a 3-1 first inning deficit only to watch the Rams score twice in the bottom of the ninth for the win.
Rio took a 1-0 lead in the first on consecutive two-out singles by junior Kyle Findley (Cincinnati, OH), senior David Steele (Kettering, OH) and sophomore Chris Ford, but Bluefield countered with an RBI double by Jakob Schober and run-scoring singles by Jacob Wright and Sawyer McLamb to go in front.
The RedStorm mounted a rally of their own, though, scoring single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings to take the lead. Senior Marcus Makuch singled home the second inning run, while freshman Daryin Lewis (Circleville, OH) had an RBI single in the fourth and Steele plated the go-ahead run with a fifth inning groundout.
Rio senior Mike Deitsch (Cincinnati, OH), who came on in relief of junior starter Anthony Knittel (Portsmouth, OH) just six batters into the game, held the Rams in check until their final at bat.
Tyler Lundgren reached on a one-out single and was replaced by courtesy runner Tyler Rome, who promptly moved to second on a passed ball before scporing the tying run on a single to center by Tyler Timmer.
Timmer, who took second on the throw home trying to retire Rome, came home with the winning run moments later on a single to center by Schober.
Makuch and Findley both had three hits in the loss for Rio Grande, while Deitsch dropped to 2-4 as the hard-luck loser.
McLamb had three hits for BC, while Timmer, Schober and Wright all had two hits. Cory Niten, the fourth pitcher of the game for the Rams, earned his third win in five decisions.
In game two, the Rams opened up a 4-0 lead after four innings and never looked back.
Wright singled home a first inning run and Lundgren led off the third with a home run to center to make it 2-0. Kahlin Villines added a two-run double in the fourth.
The RedStorm chopped the deficit in half in the sixth thanks to a run-scoring groundout by Findley and a pinch-hit RBI single by freshman Drew Haislop (Oak Hill, OH), but the Rams got one of the runs back and set the final score in the bottom of the sixth thanks to an RBI groundout by Villines.
Ryan Shockey went the distance to get the win for BC, allowing six hits and the two runs while striking out five.
Junior Kevin Arroyo (Toa Baja, Puerto Rico) had two hits for Rio, while senior starter Eric Ford (Chagrin Falls, OH) suffered his fifth loss in as many decisions after allowing seven hits and four runs over five innings.
Lundgren also had a double in the winning effort for the Rams, while Rome also finished 2-for-3.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Tuesday evening against Ohio University-Lancaster. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. at Beavers Field in Lancaster.