By John Gatto
For the Mountain Advocate
A late inning home run by No. 19 Davenport (Mich.) was the difference, as the Union College baseball team dropped their 2015 season opener on Friday, 3-2, at Jerry Carey Stadium.
In the first three innings of the contest, Bulldog starting pitcher Matt Hasenbeck (JR/Eureka, Mo.) was terrific, wiggling out of jams in both the second and third innings to keep things scoreless. Equally impressive was Davenport starter Corey Murphy, who held Union scoreless through three, as well.
In the fourth, Davenport broke the scoreless tie with a run, making it 1-0. However, Union answered in the bottom of the frame, as Zach Dillman (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio) knocked home Justin Elder (SR/Seven Mile, Ohio) on an RBI single with one out, knotting the game up at 1-1 after four innings.
Over the next inning and a half, both teams left runners on base, with Davenport stranding two on in the top of the sixth after reliever Brady Smiley (SO/Hebron, Ky.) forced a double play with runners on first and second.
But in the bottom of the frame, Union took the lead at 2-1 after Zach Gross (JR/Bowling Green, Ky.) scored from second base on a Davenport throwing error. Gross started the inning off with a walk, then advanced to second on a stolen base.
The Bulldogs kept the 2-1 lead into the eighth, where Davenport took control with one swing. With one out and a runner on second, Cody Greear hit a Nelson Price (SR/Burkesville, Ky.) pitch over the left field wall, giving the Panthers their first lead of the day by one run.
Once the Panthers grabbed the lead, they never gave it up, as reliever Jonathan Cheshire earned a six-out save after tossing the final two innings in relief.
Union did have a chance to tie it in the ninth after a John Wilson (SR/Manchester, Ky.) single with one out, but Wilson’s pinch runner was stranded on second after a fly out, then a strikeout ended the game.
Overall, the Union pitching staff kept the Bulldogs in the game all afternoon. Hasenbeck was impressive in his first start, going five and a third, allowing just one run (unearned) on five hits. Smiley and Alex Fuller (JR/Franklin, Ky.) also tossed an inning and two-thirds of shutout relief, as well.
Wilson was the only Union batter to have multiple hits in the game, going 2-for-5, as the Bulldogs mustered just five hits off of Davenport.
For the Panthers, reliever Anthony Alarcon took the win after two shutout innings of relief, with Cheshire earning the save. Price took the loss for the Bulldogs on the mound.
Game two of the three game set between Union and Davenport will begin tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Jerry Carey Stadium. It will once again be a nine inning contest.