DELAND, Fla. – Three Gardner-Webb pitchers combined to allow just one earned run, as the Bulldogs eliminated Lipscomb, 4-1, Thursday in the 2007 Progress Energy Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
The Diamond ‘Dogs (26-31) beat the Bison for the third time in four meetings this season, and used timely bunting and superb defense to back up a fine pitching performance.
GWU went up 1-0 in the third on an RBI groundout by Josh Drewery, pushed across a pair of unearned runs in the fifth for a 3-0 lead and responded to Lipscomb’s lone run in the sixth with an insurance marker in the seventh – with Nate MacDonald pushing across that run with a perfect suicide squeeze bunt.
Bulldog starter Ben Campbell (7-6) was sharp, working 6.1 innings, scattering nine hits and allowing just one run (two strikeouts). Devin Campbell worked 1.0 hitless inning to record a hold for GWU – and senior Matt Tafazzoli came on in the eighth and closed out the game for his fourth save of the season.
“We’ve been [fighting] for about a month. It was win or go home pretty much,” Ben Campbell said following the game. “We put ourselves in a deep hole earlier this season, and again yesterday, but we’ve kept fighting. We have a lot of heart on this team.”
Campbell was chased in the top of the seventh, walking Clay Lehning on four pitches to lead off the frame, and giving up a single through the left side to Branden Cadavid. Campbell recovered to get Allen Bolden out on a fouled bunt with two strikes – and exited in favor of reliever Devin Campbell.
The Bulldogs’ starting quarterback was sharp, striking out Ben Williams and Casey Bond on six pitches to end the inning with his ‘Dogs still in front 3-1.
Gardner-Webb pushed its lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, getting back-to-back hits from Jamall Kinard and Jay McConnell to lead things off and a nicely placed squeeze bunt from Nate MacDonald after both men moved into scoring position on a Cooke sacrifice.
Lipscomb attempted to mount a rally in the eighth, but Tafazzoli came on with two men aboard and one out – and rolled a double play to end the threat. Tafazzoli pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save of the season, and third save in his last four outings.
Cooke (2-for-2), Kinard (2-for-4) and Jay McConnell (2-for-4) – the top of the Bulldogs’ batting order – accounted for 75 percent of Gardner-Webb’s eight hits in the game.
“It seems like when [the top three in the order] do well, we win,” said Cooke. “Today it was big that we three stepped up and got on base the way we did.”
Rob Smithson (7-6) was tagged with his second loss to Gardner-Webb this season, despite a strong effort. The big righty worked 6.1 innings and allowed just one earned run on seven hits. His defense booted two balls that led to three Bulldog runs.
Ryan Wilkins (2-for-2) and Cadavid (2-for-4) paced Lipscomb’s nine-hit effort at the plate.
Gardner-Webb will now play the loser of Thursday night’s Belmont/Mercer tussle. GWU’s next game is set for 3 pm ET on Friday.