April 9, 2011

Saints Split Doubleheader with No. 15 Francis Marion

DAHLONEGA, GA – The North Georgia baseball team exploded early on Saturday afternoon to take game one of a doubleheader 9-6 over 15th-ranked No. 15 Francis Marion, but the Patriots answered in the nightcap with a 10-run inning to snag a 10-4 win and earn a split at Bob Stein Stadium in Peach Belt Conference action.

With the doubleheader split, the Saints move to 22-14 on the year and 8-12 in Peach Belt Conference action, while the Patriots are now 28-10 overall and 12-5 in league play. FMU continues to lead the race for the PBC regular season title, sitting three games ahead of Armstrong Atlantic in the win column.

Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro was on hand for Saturday's doubleheader, as the 318-game winner threw out for the first pitch in front of a near capacity crowd.

With one of the best pitchers in the country on the mound for Francis Marion in Don Sandifer, the Saints put together their best hitting display of the year in the game of the doubleheader, scoring nine runs in the first three innings to jump out to a commanding lead.

Sandifer was chased after just 1.2 innings, as the sophomore allowed seven runs on as many hits, including a pair of home runs as the Saints pounded the ball over the park in the first two innings.

With one out in the first inning, Troy Snitker unloaded and belted his third home run of the year down the left field line, a two-run blast to give the Saints a 2-0 lead. Brad Hall came through later in the inning, singling home Chad Sage to cap a three-run frame for North Georgia.

The Saints continued to pour it on in the second inning, as Jordan Erisman drilled a two-run home run of his own to left field, sending Alan Fredriksson home and giving North Georgia a commanding 5-0 advantage.

Hall and the Saints would not stop there, as he came to plate later in the inning with three runners aboard and lined a bases-clearing double to the gap in the left-center, sending North Georgia racing out to an 8-0 second-inning lead.

After the Saints added a single run in the third on a groundout, the Patriots finally pushed across a run in the sixth inning when Buddy Sosnoskie singled up the middle to plate John Jones and make it 9-1.

Francis Marion continued to pull closer in the late innings, tallying a single run in the in the eighth frame, before pushing across four runs in the ninth, but Jacob Rickett was called on to slam the door and earn his league-leading 11th save of the year.

Blake Hobby (4-3) was the winning pitchers, lasting 8.0 innings and giving up two runs on seven hits, while walking four and striking out seven.

The Saints had plenty to cheer about early in the second game, as Troy Snitker came through again, blasting his second home run of the day, this time a solo shot in the first inning to send North Georgia out to a 1-0 lead.

The game would go scoreless into the fifth inning when Francis Marion erupted at the plate, scoring 10 runs on seven hits and sending 15 batters to plate to race out to a 10-1 lead.

Preston Shuey had the big blow in the inning, launching a grand slam to left center to give the Patriots their first lead of the day at 5-1.

FMU followed with three more run-scoring base knocks in the inning, including a Brock McCallister double down the left field line to plate two Patriots and make it 9-1. Michael Wilson capped the scoring in the frame as he trotted home on a balk to give the Patriots a nine-run lead.

Erisman did everything he could to pull North Georgia back into the game, blasting his second two-run home run of the day in the sixth inning, before singling home a run in the eighth, but FMU held on to earn the doubleheader split.

Phillip Mozingo (6-1) picked up the win in 6.0 innings of work, allowing eight hits and three runs, while walking three and striking out eight. Wes Coberly (3-3) suffered the loss, tossing 4.1 innings and giving up three runs on six hits.

For the day, Erisman finished 4-for-8 at the plate with two home runs, five runs batted in, and three runs scored, while Snitker was just as impressive, going 6-for-10 with two home runs, three runs batted in and three runs scored.

The Saints and Patriots will play the rubber game of the three-game series on Sunday afternoon with first pitch set for 1:00 p.m. at Bob Stein Stadium in Peach Belt Conference action.

- MLB Hall of Famer Phil Niekro throws out Saturday's first pitch at Bob Stein Stadium -