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UC bats get hot in win over Bluefield State

By Tommy Atkinson, Staff writer
KENNY KEMP | Gazette
Charleston’s Jordan Banks slides into home while Bluefield State’s Jacob Hall bobbles the ball.

It was one of those games where you couldn’t wait to get to the plate.

The University of Charleston broke out of a slump, coming up with timely hits in two big innings to propel it to a 10-3 victory Wednesday evening over Bluefield State. A crowd of about 200 attended the matchup at Appalachian Power Park.

The Golden Eagles’ season so far has been played in fits and starts because of unpredictable March weather, which is not conducive to producing a rhythm that baseball players desperately crave. UC (10-13) found its way early Wednesday under sunny skies, plating four runs in the second inning and five in the fourth, pounding its way to 10 hits.

“We definitely needed something like this to help pick us up,’’ said UC senior Tim Rein, a former standout at Logan High School who reached base four times, scored twice and drove in a run. “Just get out here and have a little fun with the game.

“It just brought us all closer. We’ve been, to say the least, struggling at the plate. Ask any baseball player, hits are contagious. Once you get a couple an inning you want to be the next one going up there. You’ve just got confidence that you’re going to get one, too. It’s just a good feeling.’’

The Golden Eagles entered Wednesday last in the 12-team Mountain East Conference in batting average (.240).

UC, though, sent nine batters to the plate in the second as junior Robert Collin contributed a sacrifice fly to give his team the lead for good at 1-0. Seniors Ryan Foster and Tyler Itnyre and sophomore Jordan Banks, a former standout at Chapmanville High, each followed with two-out run-scoring singles, something that’s been elusive for UC, for a 4-0 advantage.

UC kept the good vibes going, sending eight batters to the plate in the fourth and taking advantage of Bluefield State’s miscues, scoring two runs on an error and a passed ball, to forge ahead 9-0. Rein and senior Brad Johnson laced RBI singles and junior Mike Hoeft added a sacrifice fly.

“That’s the thing that’s been lacking for us,’’ said UC coach Lee Bradley of clutch hits. “We’ve had guys in scoring position with two outs and we haven’t been getting those. Probably right off the top of my head [we had] four or five two-hit hits today.

“That’s one of the things we’ve preached about and we finally saw it happen today. It was a welcome experience for us. I think the big thing for us is the weather. This is the nicest day we’ve been able to play in. I think the warm weather warmed the bats up, I hope.’’

The Golden Eagles pitching, which was leaned on early, was stellar again Wednesday. UC was fourth in the MEC in team earned run average (4.25).

Freshman Joseph Shiflett surrendered four hits and no earned runs while walking none in five innings for the victory.

“The pitching and defense has been pretty solid,’’ Bradley said. “They’ve been keeping us in a lot of games. We keep telling [our players], ‘Keep to the grindstone and the bats will come around eventually.’ ’’

After winning its first three to start the year, UC then dropped 10 of its next 12. The Golden Eagles have started to right the ship recently with five victories in their last eight.

“It’s a good time to do so,’’ said Rein of getting on a hot streak. “Just the attitude on the team has been a little more relaxed. We definitely have the talent. It’s there. It’s just a matter of going out there and putting it on the field.’’

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.


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