In an impressive showing, the Shawnee State baseball program was able to split its last pair of contests against Freed-Hardeman on Saturday, controlling the opener en route to a 7-2 victory over the No. 9 team in the country before falling by an 8-5 margin in the series finale later in the day.
Shawnee State, who now sits at 6-7 overall and 2-3 in Mid-South Conference play, scored its first victory over a ranked opponent during the 2021 season with its victory in Saturday’s opener.
The Bears posted 17 hits between the two games and got strong efforts from Jacob Gleason and Tanner Cunningham on the mound in the first affair Saturday afternoon.
Jones and Coleman continue strong play throughout weekend
Continuing on their offensive promise from Game 1, the play of Levi Jones and Damion Coleman continued to shine for the Bears in Saturday’s opener, while Howie Rodriguez also provided a lift for the Bears.
Jones got Shawnee State’s scoring started in the second by coming home on a wild pitch, then homered to right center on a 0-1 count to answer a FHU run in the top half of the third frame and allow the Bears to retake the lead at a 2-1 margin after three innings.
Rodriguez then added a solo homer himself as the infielder from Florida went deep on the first pitch of his at-bat with one out in the fourth inning to push the Bears’ lead to a 3-1 advantage.
Coleman, meanwhile, helped put the result to bed in the latter innings. His leadoff single in the sixth resulted in the junior scoring off of a Kyle Boggs single in the same frame, while his double to left field with two outs in the seventh inning of work scored Jacob Kline and increased Shawnee State’s lead to a 5-1 count. Freed-Hardeman closed the lead down to a three-run margin in the eighth inning, but SSU matched FHU’s output by scoring two runs in the bottom half of the same frame as Kline’s RBI single and Jones’ sacrifice fly RBI closed out the scoring.
Overall, Shawnee State scored runs in six of its eight innings Saturday, with Jones going 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBI, two runs scored and six putouts defensively from his right field position in the opener, while Coleman went 2-for-5 with a double, a RBI, and a run scored in the 7-2 victory.
Rodriguez’s lone homer and RBI allowed the junior to go 1-for-4, while the Orlando native matched Jones with six putouts during Saturday’s opening affair.
Boggs, Cunningham, Gleason, Santiago add to strong Game 1 effort
Following the efforts of the main trio, Kyle Boggs, Tanner Cunningham, Jacob Gleason and Javier Santiago put together individual performances that were huge in the finalization of the result.
Boggs went 1-for-2 at the plate with three putouts and a pair of assists from his first base position while walking twice and driving in a run at the plate, while Gleason was strong throughout his effort, giving up just three hits and one run in five innings of work while striking out five batters.
Santiago, who aided the freshman throughout with his tremendous play behind the plate, posted a team-high seven putouts and gunned down all three runners who attempted to steal on him throughout the Game 1 affair.
Cunningham came in to pitch in relief of Gleason over the final four frames, not giving up an earned run (one run total) while striking out three and allowing one hit in Saturday’s Game 1 victory.
Jones continues strong series; Duran gets going
Jones was consistent throughout the week, and leadoff hitter George Duran provided the necessary fuel to the Bears’ offensive efforts in Game 2.
Duran teamed with Danny McGuire to collect back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom half of the opening inning, each scored on Jones’ single to left field to tie the score at 2-2 after an inning of play.
Duran then added another run in the bottom half of the fourth frame, posting a triple and then scoring on McGuire’s sacrifice fly to tie the score at three apiece before Freed-Hardeman took control from that point on forward.
Both Duran and Jones ultimately went 2-for-4 in the affair, with Duran scoring twice and Jones posting a double and two RBI to boot. Jones, overall, finished 6-of-11 with a double, a home run, four RBI and three runs scored for the series.
With the series in the books, the Bears (6-7, 2-3 MSC) will turn their attention to a Wednesday afternoon nonconference doubleheader against Bluefield (Va.).
Game time is set for 1 p.m.
For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club or for sponsorship of specific SSU players or events, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club and https://givetossu.com/sponsorthebears.