DAHLONEGA, GA – The North Georgia baseball team recorded a season-low six hits on Friday evening as the visiting Marauders of Millersville University got their season off to a hot start with an 8-1 victory over the Saints at Bob Stein Stadium in non-conference action.
The Saints, ranked 8th in the latest Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Division II Top 25 Poll, suffered their first loss of the season, falling to 6-1 on the year, while the Marauders pick up a victory in their season opener. Millersville holds a 3-2 edge in the all-time series between the two schools after the programs split a four-game series during the 2008 season.
Walks would prove to be the difference as North Georgia pitchers struggled all night, issuing 11 free passes, including four straight balls to Ryan McCormick who led off the game and later scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Marauders a first-inning lead.
Millersville added to the lead in the fourth inning when Nick Bonadies coaxed a two-out walk and it came right back to bite the Saints again as Ryan Chesler followed with a triple to the gap in right center, plating Bonadies and giving the Marauders a 2-0 lead.
After another solo run in the sixth inning made it 3-0, the Saints mounted their first rally of the night in the bottom half of the inning as Jordan Erisman led off and stroked a single down the left field line and Terrell Jones followed two batters later and single to center field, putting two runners on with just one out.
Chad Sage then came to the dish and belted the third pitch he saw over the centerfielder's head and off the fence, but both runners had to hold on the play as Sage recorded a long single and left the bases jammed for Kenny Bellavance. Finding himself down in the count, Bellavance grounded out to Mike August at shortstop and he started what turned out to be an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Millersville continued to add insurance runs late in the game, tacking on three runs in the eighth, and adding two more in the ninth to take an 8-0 lead. The Saints did come off the deck in the ninth and used a Troy Snitker base hit up the middle to bring Bellavance home and score North Georgia's only run of the game in an 8-1 defeat.
The Saints had six pitchers take to the hill, but starter Bryant Kerns (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing a run on one hit in 3.0 innings of work. Brooks Rothschild (1-0) picked up the win for the Marauders, tossing 5.1 innings and allowing just three hits, while walking two and striking out a pair.
The Saints and Marauders will battle again on Saturday afternoon in game two of the weekend series. First pitch at Bob Stein Stadium is set for 1:00 p.m. as Blake Hobby will toe the rubber for North Georgia.