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Hawks sweep four

MURFREESBORO – A 4-0 weekend for the Chowan University baseball team proves that old cliché, ‘There’s no place like home.’

The Hawks swept two baseball series: 3-2 and 4-0 against Southern Virginia University on Saturday and then 15-3 and 21-7 over Virginia State, on Sunday. The victories allowed Chowan to climb back above the break-even mark on the season at 13-10.

Pitching was the hallmark of the Saturday series against the Knights, while the Hawks’ bats exploded for 36 runs in Sunday’s games with the Trojans.

Freshman Justin Bagbey became the new record holder for homeruns in a single season after getting two dingers in the second VSU game to bring his total on the year to 11, breaking Jason Mobley’s old mark set in 1997 and leaving the Virgilina, Virginia native just one shy of tying the school’s all-time single-season home run record of 12.

“We didn’t hit the ball the way we’re capable of,” said fifth-year coach Aaron Carroll after Saturday’s wins, “but our pitching and defense were outstanding.”

Since their home win over Millersville back on March 8, Chowan played a pair of road games each with Peach Belt Conference member, USC-Aiken, and defending NCAA Division-II national champion, Mt. Olive, and dropped all four games. Sandwiched between those losses were two more home dates that were rained out.

“We kinda went into a little lull there for a while,” he said, “but we also played some better competition.”

In Saturday’s wins Hawks pitching went 10 innings without allowing a run, including the shutout in game two.

Greenville southpaw Bryan Hill celebrated Senior Day by going six strong innings in the first game; surrendering two runs on six hits while striking out five for his third win of the year.

Righty reliever John Morris came on to pitch a scoreless seventh inning and pick up his first save of the season. Freshman Ryan Bradshaw went the distance in the second game to gain a four-hit shutout and even his record at 2-2.

“They (SVU) had seven singles,” said Hill, “and only one of those was really hit hard so I really owe a lot to my defense.”

After a pair of scoreless innings to open the first contest, Southern Virginia got on the board first when a runner on second came around to score on an error on a hit-and-run play for a 1-0 Knights lead.

Chowan took the lead in their half of the third when freshman Justin Bagbey delivered a one-out single for the first run and then scored later himself on junior Zac Caito’s sacrifice fly.

Southern Virginia tied it in the top of the fourth and threatened in the fifth before Chowan’s Mike Taylor stretched out to make a spectacular diving catch to rob the Knights and preserve the tie.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Hawks got the game winner as junior Thomas Bird led off with a single to left and later Evan Price, pinch running for Bird, scored on a Jordan Whitlatch double down the right field line. Morris came in the top of the seventh and pitched out of a bases loaded situation to pick up the save.

“We had our opportunities to score runs,” said Carroll, “but give their pitcher credit; we just did what we had to do to win. Our pitching and defense is going to keep us in a lot of games this year.”

The only scoring Chowan needed in the second game came in the third inning when they sent eight men to the plate and pushed across four runs. Back-to-back-to-back two-out singles by Crane, John Kellett and Bagbey produced the first run of the game and two batters later, Nate Stanton’s deep drive to center field was misplayed for an error that accounted for three unearned runs. Just like in game-one, pitching and defense held up and gave Chowan its first back-to-back wins in their last 10 games.

“We had those rainouts and then played two good teams on the road,” said Carroll, “so it was nice to see a nice crowd here rooting for us on Senior Day.

“With the remaining games we have left we want to win as many of them as possible,” he added. “The next 12 to 14 games we’re going to play some people who if we play our kind of ball we can beat, so I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”

Chowan hosts St. Andrews tomorrow (Wednesday) for a double-header beginning at 1 p.m. Friday’s home double-header with St. Pauls College has been re-scheduled for Sunday April 5th at 1 p.m. at Hawkins Field.