SSU dops season-opening doubleheader to No. 6 Faulkner

The baseball program at Shawnee State got a home run from Ben Sellers in the second game of a doubleheader between the Bears and No. 6 Faulkner (Ala.), but were only able to collect six hits as a team between the two contests while the homestanding Eagles collected 21 base hits in 15-5 and 8-4 defeats for the Bears on Saturday in Montgomery, Ala.

In the season-opening matchup for Shawnee State, the Bears fell victim to Faulkner’s strong one-through-nine lineup as the Eagles collected 15 runs on 14 hits in the contest — with six of Faulkner’s hits coming of the extra base variety. Four of those extra base knocks came in the opening inning, with John Michael Matthews’ triple to center field scoring three of the five runs in the opening inning to help give Faulkner a comfortable cushion that it wouldn’t relent.

Shawn Ross added three additional runs with a home run blast over the left field fence on the first pitch of his at-bat to help put up a six-run fourth, adding to Faulkner’s advantage.

However, Shawnee State, despite being confined in a deep deficit, kept battling.

John Salyers, who came in to pinch-hit for Howie Rodriguez, singled to right to begin the top of the seventh and Jacob Kline doubled to left, which allowed Salyers to score off of a Levi Jones sacrifice fly RBI. A single by Damion Coleman, a hit batsman, and a Brennan Gangwish free pass brought Kline in, and Coleman scored off of a sacrifice fly RBI from Danny McGuire. An error and a wild pitch accounted for the remaining runs for Shawnee State, who scored all five of its runs in the seventh frame in its opener.

In the second contest, Sellers helped the Bears get out to a much better start. On a favorable 2-1 count, the senior took his fourth pitch of the at-bat over the right field fence to put Shawnee State ahead by a 1-0 tally after the first half-inning of work. Again, a crooked first frame from Faulkner allowed the Eagles to take a 5-1 advantage, and over the first two frames of action, Faulkner pushed the lead to 7-1 due to five walks and two fielding errors on Shawnee State’s behalf.

Despite the early miscues, the Bears rallied with two runs in the third frame. A one-out single by Cameron Reaman was followed by back-to-back walks from Sellers and Rodriguez, which led to a 5-3 groundout RBI from Kline and a RBI single to center by Jones as SSU cut the Faulkner lead to 7-3. However, Faulkner obtained a run in the third frame on a passed ball, and Shawnee State, despite loading the bases in the sixth on three walks, only got a run out of the opportunity — the one run in the top of the sixth coming on a hit by pitch — as the Bears fell by the aforementioned 8-4 margin.

Pitching-wise, local products Marty Knittel and Tanner Cunningham were very strong in relief, combining to give up just three hits, a walk, and an earned run apiece in 16 batters faced. Knittel and Cunningham, who pitched at West and Valley, respectively and were teammates on Post 142, combined to throw four-and-two-thirds innings.

With the losses, Shawnee State fell to 0-2 to start the year, while Faulkner improved to 4-1 in 2020. Both teams will play each other in a pair of seven-inning contests that will start at 1:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. CST on Sunday.

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