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Ouachita Baptist splits a pair with North Alabama.


FLORENCE, Ala. – The 21st-ranked Ouachita Baptist baseball team was in a dawg fight all afternoon at Lane Field as the Tigers split with North Alabama , taking the opener 8-7, but lost the second contest 7-6 on Wednesday afternoon.

Justin Pennell got things started in the opener with a solo blast as he drilled a 2-1 pitch by Lions starter Matt Vandenheuvel over the right center wall, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

However, the Lions tied the game at 1 with a solo homer by Daniel Johnson to left in the second, but back came the Tigers (36-8) in the top of third as JoeDan Poulter, who fouled off four straight pitches, belted a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall, giving Ouachita Baptist a 2-1 advantage.

North Alabama (22-15) plated a pair of runs in the bottom of third as Matt Horton reached on a base hit to right and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Jones. With two outs, Collin Murphy homered to left center, giving the Lions a 3-2 lead.

Jim Streicher began the fourth with a base hit through the left side and advanced to second when Destan Makannon walked. With two outs, Drew Maus crushed a 3-1 pitch over the 365 sign in left center, giving the Tigers a 5-3 advantage. For Maus, it’s his seventh round tripper of the year.

The Lions took the 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh, plating three runs on two hits.

Jeffery Ritter walked and scored on an RBI double to right center by Josh Graham. Graham moved to third on a bunt hit by Cole Mitchell. After Mitchell moved to second on a stolen base, Johnson singled to center, scoring Graham and Mitchell to give North Alabama the lead.

Poulter, who went 2-for-2 led off the top of the seventh with a bloop single and was replaced by pinch runner Nick Williams. Blake Lockwood walked but was out on runner interference as Pennell reached first. After a strikeout, Rudy Jovanovski reached on an error to load the bases. Makonnen drew a four-ball walk, bringing in Williams, who represented the tying run. Chad Taylor laced a single through the right side, plating Pennell and Jovanovski to give Ouachita Baptist an 8-6 advantage.

North Alabama refused to go quietly plating a run in the bottom half of the seventh and had the bases loaded with two outs, but Steve Smith closed the door with his first save as he fanned Trey Pollard to end the game.

Zach Willbanks worked five innings, surrendering six runs on six hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts. Jerry Helferich (5-3) worked an inning of relief, giving up just one hit. Patrick Lemmond pitched 2/3 of an inning, giving up a run.

Vandenheuvel pitched four innings, giving up five runs on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Brandon Tepe walked three in two innings, while Ryan Miller (5-1) surrendered three runs on two hits with a pair of walks in an inning of work.

After a scoreless first inning in game 2, Ouachita Baptist plated a pair on two hits to grab a 2-0 advantage as Jovanovski led off the second with a base hit to right and scored on Makonnen’s two two-run shot to right center.

The Lions tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the fourth as Jeffery Ritter doubled to right center and scored on a homer by Josh Graham, who was selected the GSC East Division Player of the Week.

Pennell gave the Tigers the lead right back in the top of the sixth with a solo blast – his eighth of the season – over the left center wall. The power continued in the inning when Jovanovski was hit by a pitch with one out and Makonnen continued his string of homers – team leading and GSC leading 19 — with a two-run blast to left center, giving Ouachita Baptist a 5-2 advantage and forcing Lions coach Mike Lane to go to the bullpen.

Back came the Lions in the bottom of the frame when Murphy homered to left, cutting the deficit to 5-3. With one out, reliever Helferich got out of the inning with a ground ball double-play to end the inning.

The Tigers added to the lead in the top of the seventh when Lockwood reached on a walk and scored on a base hit through the right side by Streicher.

North Alabama rallied for four runs in the bottom of seventh, helped by a past ball in which the home plate umpire failed to get out of the way, allowing the winning run to score.

Jarod Hershberger pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Tigers. He gave up three runs on seven hits. Helferich worked 2/3 of an inning, giving up two runs and a pair of walks. Lemmond (2-1) came on to try to close things, but was shaky. He gave up a run on one hit in the bottom of the seventh while not recording an out. Steve Smith came on at the end, but couldn’t save the Tigers.

Justin Fleming started for North Alabama , surrender two runs on two hits with a walk. Trey Mitchell was tagged for three runs on three hits with a pair of walks in 2 1/3 innings. Brennen Auerbach gave up a run and paved the way for Miller (6-1), who finished things off by working 2/3 of an inning.

Ouachita Baptist travels 2:00 p.m., Saturday, April 12 to Russellville , Ark. , to take on Gulf South Conference West Division opponent Arkansas Tech for a doubleheader. Those games will be available to listen to on the Ouachita Baptist athletic Web site at:

NOTES: Ouachita Baptist swept North Alabama in a doubleheader at Rab Rodgers Field, 4-3 and 4-3 on March 5….The Tigers, who began the second ranked No. 11, are No. 21 after the latest NCAA Division II College Baseball Newspaper poll…The South Central Region rankings come out Wednesday.

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