DAVIDSON, N.C. -- Nate Smith recorded 10 strikeouts to match a career high, and Will Muzika homered in his second straight game to lead Furman past Davidson, 7-1, in the opening game of a three-game Southern Conference baseball series Friday evening at Wilson Field.
In earning the victory, Smith (2-0), a senior left-hander and the SoCon's reigning pitcher of the week, fanned 10 Davidson batters over six innings, and Ben Carlson followed with three innings of shutout ball, including three strikeouts, to record his third save of the season for Furman (14-4, 5-2 SoCon), which won the seventh time in its last eight games.
The win was the Paladins' fourth straight over Davidson (6-9, 2-5 SoCon).
Muzika, who homered in Furman's 7-3 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday, belted a solo shot to left field in the eighth to extend the Paladins' lead to 6-1. In the ninth Alex Abrams' RBI double scored Paul Nitto, who reached on an error to finish the game without a hit in four at bats, halting his Division I leading hitting streak at 25 games — the third longest streak in program history.
Smith got all the run support he would need early as Jordan Simpson and Muzika opened the third inning with back-to-back doubles off of Davidson starter Ryan Lowe (2-2), and Muzika scored on a Taylor Johnson infield single — his second of four hits in a 4-for-5 performance — to give Furman a 2-0 lead.
Smith loaded the bases in the third with a hit and two walks but got out of the jam by striking out Lee Miller and Andrew Barna.
Jarrod Rickman's RBI double in the fourth plated Chris Ohmstede for a 3-0 lead, and the Paladins added a run in the sixth after pinch runner Heath Burton stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error before coming in to score on a Simpson sacrifice fly.
Davidson registered its only run in the sixth on Michael Zeblo's solo home run to left center field to make it a 4-1 game. Furman, however, responded by plating single runs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth to nail down the victory.
Seven of Furman's 12 hits were doubles. Muzika went 2-for-5 and, in addition to cracking his 24th career home run, drove in two runs, scored twice, and stole a base. Johnson's also swiped two bags for the Paladins.
Carlson relieved Smith to begin the seventh and retired the Wildcats in order. He yielded back-to-back singles in the eighth but rallied to get the next three batters, including two by strikeout. The Mauldin, S.C., product finished off his solid relief performance with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth.
Barna and Zeblo both went 2-for-4 to lead Davidson, which finished with seven hits.
Saturday's game is set for 2:00 p.m. at Wilson Field.
(Photo Courtesy of Wayne Rickman)