March 13 - FORT PIERCE, Fla. – In a tightly-contested doubleheader Sunday afternoon in Fort Pierce, the Bethany College baseball team and Earlham (Ind.) College settled for a split, with the Bison squeezing out a 1-0 victory in the opener and the Quakers escaping with a 3-2 triumph in the nightcap.
The opening contest was a classic pitcher’s duel between BC sophomore Zak Kozlowski (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) and Earlham’s Adam Painter. Both teams stranded runners in the initial few innings, but each side missed a golden opportunity in the fourth. Bethany loaded the bases with no outs, but a 1-2-3 double play and a strike out ended the threat. Earlham also filled the sacks in the last of the fourth with two walks and a hit batter, but Kozlowski escaped the jam with a fly out to left field.
The Bison finally struck in the fifth. Junior catcher T.J. Zarewicz (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills) stole second after reaching on a fielder’s choice and with two outs, a ground ball by senior 2B Eric Fudala (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) was mishandled by the Quakers’ first baseman and Zarewicz came around to score the unearned run for a 1-0 BC advantage.
Bethany’s pitching made that run stand up. Kozlowski blew through the next two frames, allowing just a two-out single in the fifth and retiring the side in order in the sixth. Sophomore Brad Kubis (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell), who tied for the lead in Division III with 12 saves last year, entered in the seventh to close it out. It wouldn’t be easy, as Earlham put runners on first and second with one out. But the next batter ripped a line drive at Fudala, who snared it and doubled up the runner at second to end the game.
Kozlowski’s first start of 2011 was a strong one, despite having to overcome bouts of wildness. He walked five, hit one and threw three wild pitches, but in between, the sophomore righty gave up just two hits and struck out five to earn the win. He was able to outduel Painter, who went the distance and gave up the one unearned run on five hits while striking out six and walking just one.
In game two, it was Bison miscues that led to an early Earlham lead. A leadoff double to open the game was followed two batters later by an RBI single for a quick 1-0 Quaker advantage. Then an error on a failed pickoff attempt and wild pitch allowed the second run to score for a 2-0 EC lead.
Bethany drew even with solo tallies in the third and fourth innings. In the third, BC loaded the bases with no outs and scored one on a double play, but that was all the Green and White managed from that threat. Then in the fourth, sophomore 3B Brad Kubis (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell) reached on an error, went to second on a single by senior LF Mike Pegg (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) and both moved up on a wild pitch. Kubis trotted home with the tying run on a ground out by junior DH Alex Evans (Washington, Pa.).
After a rough first inning, Bethany senior starting pitcher Mike Muklewicz (Bridgeport, W.Va.) settled down. He retired 10 in a row at one point and only allowed one base runner between the first and sixth innings. But the Quakers pieced together a rally in the sixth. The leadoff batter singled, stole second and raced to third on a throwing error. It looked like BC might get out of the inning unscathed when the next hitter flew out to short right and junior RF Anthony Packer (River Vale, N.J./Pascack Valley Regional) gunned down the runner at the plate.
However, Earlham used a two-out rally to net the go-ahead run. After a walk and a hit batter, Muklewicz was replaced by sophomore Ryan Styche (Buena Vista, Pa./Elizabeth Forward). The first batter he faced was Mark Dye, who dropped a short flare into right field to move Earlham into the lead 3-2.
Bethany tried to mount a two-out rally in the last of the sixth, but after a strikeout ended the inning and stranded runners on first and second. The Bison would be retired in order in the seventh and suffered their first loss of 2011.
Bethany’s Muklewicz was shouldered with the hard-luck loss, as he gave up three runs, two earned, on three hits while striking out two and walking three in 5 2/3 innings of work. Offensively, BC was limited to only four singles in the contest.
The Bison will next be in action Wednesday when they take on Earlham again in a single, nine-inning game at 12 p.m.