By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – The last two days of the Capital University baseball team's annual spring break trip to the RussMatt Invitational ended on a high note with a pair of wins that drive its overall record to 6-3. Behind strong starts provided by Patrick Avellano and Ross Thompson, the Crusaders defeated Rhode Island College and Neumann College (Pa.) by large margins to close out its stay.
GAME 1 - Capital 12, Rhode Island College 1 (Friday afternoon)
Through five innings the Crusaders and Anchormen were scoreless and engaged in a classic pitcher's duel. Senior pitcher Patrick Avellano (Alpharetta, Ga./Alpharetta) has a second strong start that began with four consecutive strikeouts between innings two and three while his counterpart, Andrew Viega, had to work a little hard to escape jams in the second and fourth innings. Only in the sixth inning did the Crusaders finally mark up the line score with three runs, and then followed with a big four-run seventh inning.
Capital made the most of its fourth pass through the lineup against Viega. Sophomore Tyler Osborne (Newark, Ohio/Newark) led the inning off with a walk and then went first to third on Shayne Lyons' single. Senior Daniel Walters (Concord, Ohio/Riverside) drove Osborne home on a sacrifice fly to get Capital on the board. With two runners on, Rhode Island went to the bullpen but their pick, Myles Levy, walked or hit the next three Capital batters to give CU two free runs.
Cap increased its lead to 7-0 with back-to-back one-out doubles by Lyons and Walters, and then back-to-back two-out singles by Drew Ellis and Zackary Ary. Ellis came in to score from third on a wild pitch, and the inning ended when Beau Otto tried to stretch two bases out of the wild pitch but was called out at the plate on an interference call on the batter, Osborne.
The Anchormen's bullpen continued to struggle when four consecutive walks, a wild pitch, a balk, and an RBI single by Lyons in the top of the ninth netted the Crusaders five more runs.
Avellano (W, 2-0) went six strong innings with five strikeouts and just four hits allowed in his second win of the season. He then turned the ball over in the seventh to senior Alexander Smith (Elk Grove, Calif./Cosumnes Oaks) in his first career relief appearance. Smith went three innings, surrendered three hits and one run and garnered the save, also the first of his career.
Lyons finished the day having gone 4-for-6 with two runs and one RBI. Walters tallied a team-high three ribbies and went 3-for-4.
GAME 2 - Capital 11, Neumann 2 (Saturday morning)
In Capital's win over Neumann on Saturday morning, the Crusaders did not waste time in taking a lead with three runs over the first three innings of play. Beau Otto (Cincinnati, Ohio/Roger Bacon) led the game off with a single to left field and later scored from third on Walters' sac fly to center.
Two innings later, the Knights' error to allow the leadoff hitter, Otto, on base came back to haunt them. Following the miscue in the field, Lyons plated him on a sac fly. Capital knocked out three singles and the last one hit by designated hitter Doug Connor landed Capital its third run.
In the fourth inning, Cap's Connor Hopkins (Highland Heights, Ohio/Benedictine) landed his third hit of the game, a run-scoring single, to give CU a 4-0 lead over Neumann.
On the other side of the scorebook, Neumann put multiple base runners in scoring position but Capital starting pitcher Ross Thompson (Wadsworth, Ohio/Wadsworth) did his job by getting the Crusaders out of the mess each time. He struck out three in his first four innings of work, and only a two-run triple by Matt McLaughlin kept him from a clean sheet in his 7.1 innings of work. Thompson (W, 2-1) allowed eight hits but just two runs in the win.
The ninth inning turned messy for the Knights after Capital knocked out six hits, walked once and benefitted from one Neumann error. In all, six runs crossed the plate to place CU ahead 11-2.
Freshman Clay Piatt (Granville, Ohio/Granville) closed up the rest of the game with 1.2 innings of scoreless ball. He surrendered just one hit in his six batters faced and struck out one.
Four different Capital hitters recorded multiple hits in the game, including Hopkins' team-leading three. Ary finished the game with two sacrifices, two run-scoring singles, and one run scored.
After the conclusion of its week-long baseball run, Capital finishes with a 6-3 overall record.
Smith led the team with 13 hits in 31 at-bats (.419). The highest batting average belongs to Lyons (9-21, .429). Walters currently has the team lead in runs batted in with seven. The team batting average read a healthy .294 while the pitching staff collectively put forth an earned run average of 3.19 and an opponent batting average of .237.
Capital will bring the action back to the Buckeye State and play a slew of nonconference games to further prepare for its conference slate. The Crusaders' next scheduled action will be Wednesday, March 7 at Ohio Wesleyan University for the first of two games against the Battling Bishops. The Bishops will return the favor at Clowson Field the following day. First pitch on both days is scheduled for 4 p.m.