March 14 - FORT PIERCE, Fla. – The Bethany baseball team’s season opening doubleheader was spoiled by an outstanding day from Geneva’s Derek Sumner, who hit a grand slam to spark a 6-5 Golden Tornado win in game two after he pitched a complete game in a 14-1 triumph in the opener.
The Golden Tornadoes, who are now 8-2 and winding down their spring break trip down south, were sharper than the Bison (0-2) in the first game, although BC had a quick start off Geneva’s ace. Sophomore CF Tyler Dillinger (McKeesport, Pa.) and sophomore 2B Eric Fudala (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) singled to open the game, moved up a base on a wild pitch and Dillinger scored when freshman DH Bryce Patterson (McKeesport, Pa.) grounded out to second for a 1-0 Bethany lead after the top of the first.
The rest of the scoring was turned in by Geneva, who tied the game on a Bison error in the second. They took the lead for good in the third when Justin Acosta homered and another error helped plate an unearned run for a 3-1 GT advantage. Geneva would score twice more in the fourth and fifth innings and used four walks to ignite a seven-run outburst in the sixth inning to complete their production.
The top of the Bison offense was solid, as Dillinger went 3-for-3 with a run scored and Fudala posted two hits in three at-bats. However, those five hits were all they mustered off Sumner, who struck 10 and walked three in going the distance.
Suffering the loss in the hill for Bethany was senior Josh Eckelberger (Beaver, Pa.), who threw 3 1/3 innings and gave up five runs, although only three were earned.
In the nightcap, Bethany sophomore Robert Erickson (Saugus, Calif./Chaminade College Prep) and Geneva’s Nick Phillips locked up in a pitcher’s duel through most of the contest. Erickson escaped a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the first and went on to hold the GT’s scoreless through the first four innings. The Bison tallied the only run through the first 4 ½ frames in the third, when junior catcher Josh Lawrence (Mather, Pa./Jefferson-Morgan) hit a lead-off single, moved to third on a double by junior LF Mark Cummins (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) and scored when a third strike on Dillinger went to the backstop.
Geneva finally managed to score in the fifth, but was aided by a pair of Bethany errors and two walks. The leadoff batter reached on an error and after a force out, Tadd Eyster stole second and third. The Bison returned the earlier help from the Golden Tornadoes when Phil Shallenberger struck out, but the pitch got away from the catcher and a throwing error allowed Eyster to score. After a pair of walks to load the bases, Sumner stepped in and hammered a grand slam over the left-field wall, which was Geneva’s only hit of their five-run rally.
The teams exchanged runs in the sixth, with BC’s coming on an RBI single from Lawrence. Trailing 6-2 heading into the seventh, Bethany mounted a rally. Freshman LF Matt Hartig (McKeesport, Pa.) led off with a double and took third on a single by Dillinger. Fudala followed with a sacrifice fly to left to score Hartig and junior RF Chris Leasure (Stafford, Ohio/Monroe Central) belted a two-run homer to deep left field to bring the Green and White within a run at 6-5.
The Bison weren’t done yet, as sophomore 3B Matt Nemec (New Brighton, Pa./Riverside) and freshman DH Alejandro Texiera (Miami, Fla./Homestead) singled and the bases were loaded on a Geneva error. Bethany wasn’t able to notch the tying run, as pop-up ended the threat.
Bethany out-hit the Golden Tornadoes for the game by an 11-6 margin, which included two hits apiece from Dillinger, Texiera and Lawrence. The long ball from Leasure was the 13th of his career and leaves him two behind Steve Opfermann (1997-00) for third place on the school’s all-time home run list. Although he took the loss, Erickson was strong in his first outing of the year, as the lefty allowed four unearned runs on three hits and struck out three in 4 2/3 innings of work.
Bethany’s spring break trip to Fort Pierce continues Sunday with a pair of JV games against Westchester Community College. The Bison’s varsity troops return to the diamond Monday morning at 8:45 a.m. for the third and final game of their series with Geneva, a nine-inning tilt. Although the Golden Tornadoes are playing a full conference slate, their games do not count in the league standings while they continue their transition to NCAA Division III.