CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dartmouth scored twice in the eighth and had the tying run on second in each of the final two frames, but could not complete the comeback as The Citadel (6-11) hung on to hand the Big Green (5-3) a 5-4 defeat at Joseph Riley Jr. Park on Friday night.
Left-hander J.P. Sears (3-1) provided seven strong innings for the Bulldogs, though Dartmouth made him work to the tune of 127 pitches. The southpaw, who entered the game with a 2.05 ERA and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, allowed two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks to go with four strikeouts to earn the victory.
Trailing 5-2 entering the eighth, the Big Green quickly put together a scoring threat against reliever Marlin Morris as sophomore Matt Feinstein walked and went to second on a single by junior Dustin Shirley. A fielder’s choice and a passed ball put runners at second and third, but after getting the second out on strikes, the left-hander was pulled with right-handed hitting Hayden Rappoport — who was involved in each of Dartmouth’s first two runs — due to hit.
The Citadel summoned third baseman Jonathan Sabo to the mound, and Big Green head coach Bob Whalen countered by sending lefty-swinging freshman Michael Calamari in as a pinch hitter. The strategy worked as the rookie lines a two-run single into left-center, bringing Dartmouth within a run. Pinch Runner Mike Brown took second on a passed ball, but Sabo left him there when he fanned another lefty pinch hitter on a full-count pitch.
In the ninth, senior Ben Socher roped a pinch-hit double with one down to give the Big Green some life. He would go no further, however, as Sabo induced a shallow pop to short and struck out the final hitter after a lengthy battle to nail down his second save of the year.
Dartmouth had trailed after just seven innings over the first six games of the season and threatened to take an early lead by putting runners on the corners with one out in the top of the first. But a line drive off the bat of senior Michael Ketchmark turned into a double play when the throw back to first arrived before the runner could retreat, ending the threat.
In the bottom half, the Bulldogs quickly went to work on junior right-hander Jack Fossand (0-1) as Clay Martin tripled and scored on Taylor Cothran’s double inside the third-base bag. Sabo then lined an RBI single to center, and after taking third when right fielder Kyle Holbrook bobbled a single by Ben Peden, crossed the plate on William Kinney’s grounder to second for a 3-0 lead.
The Big Green began chipping away at their deficit in the second thanks to a double to left-center by sophomore Nate Ostmo that scored Rappoport who had reached on an infield hit. In the top of the fourth, they tacked on another run when Ketchmark stroked a leadoff double, took third on a fly to right and beat the throw to the plate on Rappoport’s fly to left.
Fossand, meanwhile, was channeling Harry Houdini on the mound. The Citadel put runners on second and third with nobody out in the second, yet failed to score as the junior got a shallow fly for the first out, had a runner thrown out at the plate on a grounder to short and retired the side on another fly ball. The very next inning, the Bulldogs loaded the bases only to be thwarted by Fossand who pumped a third strike past one hitter before inducing a double play.
Fossand’s luck ran out in the fourth as a two-out error prolonged the inning. A stolen base and a walk ended his evening, and Peden greeted freshman reliever Austen Michel — making his collegiate debut — by sneaking a grounder through the right side to double The Citadel’s lead to 4-2.
A two-out homer by Joe Sabatini, his second of the year, in the seventh off junior Clay Chatham made it a 5-2 game and proved to be the difference in the end.
Fossand took the loss for surrendering four runs, only two earned, over 3.2 innings and 84 pitches in his first start of the year. He also walked three batters and struck out two. Three of the season-high four Big Green errors on the night came during his stint on the mound.
Feinstein and Shirley each had two hits for Dartmouth, which matched the Bulldogs’ 10 safeties. Calamari had two RBIs in his pinch-hitting role and Ketchmark scored a pair of runs.
Peden led all players with three base hits, and Cothran scored twice as each drove in a run along with three teammates.
Dartmouth and The Citadel will play the third contest in the four-game series on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. with senior Jackson Bubala (0-1, 16.20) scheduled to pitch for the Big Green against Jordan Buster (0-0, 5.62). Both pitchers will be making their first starts of the season, and the game will be streamed live for free on the SoCon Digital Network.
Notes: All three Dartmouth losses this season have been by one run ... Michel did not allow a run in 2.1 innings in his collegiate debut ... the four errors were the most for the Big Green since committing four in an 8-6 loss last year on March 24 at North Florida.