The 13th-ranked Salisbury University baseball team split its weekend series against No. 7 The State University of New York Cortland, or Cortland State, this weekend.
The Sea Gulls suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday, falling to the Red Dragons by a 10-9 margin.
The Salisbury pitching staff struggled to limit the Cortland offense after a strong start to the year.
Senior Clayton Dwyer took the mound for the Sea Gulls. Coming off a solid outing in Salisbury’s season opener, things would not go quite as smoothly for the right-hander this time around.
Dwyer allowed three runs on six hits over five innings, striking out three batters in the process.
Two of the three runs allowed came on a pair of fourth inning solo home runs by Mat Bruno and Danny Coleman.
In the seventh inning, the Sea Gulls’ plate discipline was on full display. The Red Dragons surrendered three consecutive bases-loaded walks to give Salisbury a 9-6 lead.
The eighth inning was an entirely different story. Sophomore left-hander Xavier Marmol gave up four runs in the top of the inning to reach the final lead for Cortland, 10-9.
The Sea Gulls were back out on Sunday looking to redeem themselves and avoid the two-game sweep.
Senior Braden Stinar took the mound for Salisbury.
It was a shaky start for the right-hander, as he plunked the first two batters he faced.
Despite the shaky start, Stinar settled in nicely for the Sea Gulls. The senior went five and a third innings for Salisbury, giving up three runs on four hits and striking out eight batters in the process.
The first run of the game for either team would not come until the bottom of the third inning.
Sophomore right fielder Cameron Hyder grounded a ball to first to set up what looked to be a routine double play for Cortland. However, Red Dragon first baseman Sam Kippen sailed the throw to second, sending it to the outfield and allowing Nate Yoder to come around to score for the Sea Gulls.
The Red Dragon offense finally started to get going in the fifth inning, where a Colin BeVard RBI single knotted the game at one run apiece.
This was followed by a sixth inning, which saw the Red Dragons mount a 4-1 lead, thanks to RBI base hits from James Varian and Scott Giordano.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Sea Gulls took advantage of a couple of Cortland miscues. A couple of unearned runs across the board cut the deficit to one run.
Cortland first baseman Danny Coleman made up for a couple of errors earlier in the game when he came up to bat in the top of the seventh, as he blasted a solo home run to double the lead and make it a 5-3 game. This was Coleman’s second longball of the weekend.
A three-run eighth inning for Cortland made it an 8-3 ballgame. The possibility of being swept was looming large for the Sea Gulls.
When the ninth inning finally arrived, it was going to take some late-game heroics for the Gulls to pull this one off. They found their hero in senior third baseman Brandon Bonesteel.
The lefty hit a chopper down the right field line over the head of the Cortland first baseman. Stephen Rice and Christian Murphy came around to score, giving Salisbury a 9-8 victory in walk-off fashion.
As for Bonesteel’s approach in that final at bat, it was business as usual.
“I was just looking for something that I could drive,” Bonesteel said. “The chopper wasn’t ideal, but it got the job done.”
Brohawn felt that there were both good and bad things to be taken away from the weekend as a whole.
“We came up short yesterday,” Brohawn said. “I don’t want to say we blew it, but we let it get away from us.
“Usually with Cortland, it’s not about talent. In the past, we have lacked the composure to compete with them because we had some inexperienced guys. That certainly was not the case this weekend. I’m really happy with the way we came out here and competed.”
The Sea Gulls’ next outing will be on Wednesday as they travel to face Virginia Wesleyan University. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.
By THOMAS WEST
Featured photo: Brad Boardman image.