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Cougars Fall to #25 Gyrenes in Series Opener
Clearwater traveled to Bowie's Ballpark on the campus of Ave Maria University for the first of a three game series earlier this afternoon. The Gyrenes were ranked 25th nationally in the NAIA Preseason Coach's Poll, which still stands, and entered the contest with an 8-3 record.
The Cougars and Gyrenes swapped scoreless innings until the bottom of the fourth when Ave Maria plated an unearned run after right fielder Hunter McCarthy hit a double in the left center gap that scored first baseman James Lesniewski from first, who reached on a dropped pop up.
Ave Maria extended their lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning after shortstop Christian Sanchez singled in center fielder Patrick Fahey who singled earlier in the inning. The blue and green tacked on another run in the bottom half of the seventh after a walk was issued with the bases loaded to pinch hitter Aaron Pigna on a 3-2 count after fouling off a pair of pitches with the full count.
The Gyrenes closed their scoring in the bottom of the eighth when left fielder Tommy Lentine stole second and Lesniewski took home on the throw to second, which made for a close play at the plate, but Lesniewski beat the throw, making it 4-0.
Clearwater had only two base runners that reached second base, but stranded eight runners total after collecting three hits. The Cougars had a chance to break open the scoring in the bottom of the second after senior Joel Felten and freshman Tim Reidy hit back to back singles with one out. Ave Maria's starting pitcher Ethan Striz then retired the next two hitters, getting out of the jam with no harm.
Striz (2-1) picked up the win for Ave Maria after throwing eight shut out innings, striking out three, scattering three hits, and walking two. Junior Will Kirby (1-1) took the loss for Clearwater after hurling seven innings, allowing three runs with one being earned, striking out seven, and allowing four walks.
Sanchez, McCarthy, and Lentine each had a multi-hit game with two a piece, pacing the Gyrenes offense.
The 0-4 loss gives Clearwater an overall record of 2-5 and moves Ave Maria's record to 9-3. The two teams will be back at it tomorrow morning for games two and three of the series. The first game of the doubleheader is set for 11:00am at Bowie's Ballpark.
NOTES: Cougars starting pitching has thrown thirty-seven of the last forty innings...first time Clearwater has faced a top 25 NAIA opponent since March 26, 2013 when the Cougars squared off with #18 Freed-Hardeman University...Gyrenes lead the series 1-0...Ave Maria scored one run in four separate innings, not having any inning in which they scored twice...Kirby has pitched into the seventh inning in four of his past five starts dating back to April 20, 2013, including two complete games during that span.
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