Baseball

 

Early Runs Lift Furman Past Gardner-Webb, 8-5

Jordan Simpson

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. -- Jordan Simpson went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs and Furman used a seven-run first inning to grab an early lead en route to an 8-5 victory over Gardner-Webb in Tuesday baseball action at Moss Stadium.

The victory was the third straight for Furman (29-23), gave the Paladins the season split with Gardner-Webb (25-25), and clinched a winning season for the Paladins — the program's first since 2008.

Furman will open its final series of the regular season on Thursday when it entertains Dayton in a 6:00 p.m. game, followed by a Friday 4:00 p.m. contest, and Saturday noon finale.   

The Paladins begin Southern Conference Tournament play next Wednesday at Fluor Field with a seed and opponent to be determined by the the final weekend of conference action.  Furman can finish anywhere from fifth through eighth in the SoCon standings.

Furman roughed up Gardner-Webb starter Hunter Smith (1-1) in the first inning, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs.  Hunter Burton's leadoff triple set the table, and he scored the first run on a sacrifice fly.  A Paul Nitto sacrifice fly made it 2-0, and the Paladins followed with four consecutive RBI base hits, highlighted by a Simpson two-run single, that stretched the lead to 6-0.  Burton collected his second hit of the frame with an RBI single that drove home Simpson to complete the seven-run outburst.

Gardner-Webb cut the lead to 7-4 with a four-run second, highlighted by a Danny Yelverton three-run home run off of Furman pitcher Matt Solter, who made his first career start.

After Simpson's third RBI of the game in the fifth gave Furman an 8-5 lead, the Paladins wiggled out of a jam in the Gardner-Webb fifth.  With runners at second and third with one out, Furman reliever Drake Browne (2-2) struck out the Bulldogs' No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Benji Jackson and Brad Collins, to end the threat.

Jacques de Gruy came on for Browne in the sixth and pitched the final four frames, scattering four hits and recording three strikeouts, to close out the Bulldogs and secure his second save of the campaign.

Every Furman starter registered a hit as the Paladins combined for 15 safeties in the contest.  Simpson's three-hit performance was matched by Burton, whose leadoff triple was the eighth of his career. Griffin Davis went 2-for-5 with a double, and Taylor Johnson registered his third straight mult-hit game with two singles in five at bats.

Browne was credited with the victory after working the scoreless fifth and striking out two.

Smith took the loss, lasting just an inning and yielding all seven Furman runs in the decisive first.

John Harris went 4-for-4 with a double and two runs scored for Gardner-Webb, which finished with 10 hits.