DAYTON, Tenn. — For the University of Rio Grande baseball team, Groundhog Day didn’t wait for the calendar to hit February 2.
As was the case with Friday’s season-opening set of games, Saturday’s split doubleheader against Talladega (Ala.) College and No. 18 Bryan (Tenn.) College saw RedStorm pitching smacked around yet again.
The Tornadoes and the host Lions, who combined for 20 runs in dealing Rio a pair of losses on Friday, tallied 19 more combined markers on Saturday with Talladega posting a 10-7 win in the opener and Bryan rolling to a 9-1 triumph in game two at Senter Field.
The RedStorm also compounded their problems by collecting just 11 hits in Saturday’s losses – that, on the heels of managing just eight hits on Friday.
Rio Grande finished the weekend with a team earned run average north of 12.00 and a team batting average of .188.
Senior Eli Daniels (Minford, OH) staked Rio to a first inning lead against Talladega – as he did on Friday evening against Bryan – with a solo home run, but the Tornadoes scored four runs of their own in the bottom of the frame and never trailed again.
The RedStorm scored once in the both the second and third innings – including a solo homer by sophomore Cole Dyer (Wheelersburg, OH) in the third – to get within 4-3 and pushed across a pair of markers in the fifth inning to close the gap to 6-5, but Talladega scored twice in both the fifth and sixth innings to pull away.
Daniels added another solo homer in the sixth to finish 2-for-4, while Dyer also had two hits. The senior trio of Caden Cluxton (Washington Court House, OH), Santiago Martinez (Gahanna, OH) and Walter Baker III (Louisville, KY) all had a double in the loss.
Freshman John Steward (Fort Myers, FL) started and took the loss for Rio, allowing five hits and five runs – four earned – over three innings. The left-hander also walked four and struck out three.
Kurston Gary went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI for Talladega, while Manuel Gonzalez finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and DeMarcus Reid clubbed a two-run home run.
Ricardo Blackman, the last of four pitchers for the Tornadoes, picked up the win despite allowing four hits and four runs over 3-1/3 innings.
In game two against Bryan, Rio again grabbed a first inning lead when sophomore II-Zadod Gabriel (Toledo, OH) reached on a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on pair of wild pitches, but the RedStorm were blanked on three hits from that point on.
The host Lions grabbed the lead with a pair of third inning runs before putting things on ice with three runs in the fourth, a single marker in the fifth and three more runs in the sixth.
Baker III had the RedStorm’s lone extra-base hit with a leadoff double in the fifth.
Junior Cody Gabriel (Upper Sandusky, OH) started and suffered the loss in his debut for Rio Grande, allowing six hits and six runs over 4-1/3 innings.
Tyler Scott went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, three RBI and a home run for Bryan, while Jacob Justice and Destine Udombon drove in two runs each.
Cameron Harvey, the second of three pitchers for the Lions, struck out five over two scoreless innings of relief to get credit for the victory.
Rio Grande returns to action in the Clash of the Conferences beginning Friday at TVA Credit Union Stadium in Johnson City, Tenn. The RedStorm will meet host Milligan (Tenn.) on Friday at 1 p.m., before squaring off with Thomas More (Ky.) and Aquinas (Mich.) on Saturday and facing Aquinas again on Sunday morning.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.