The Runnin' Bulldogs (9-3) are off to their best start since moving to NCAA Division I prior to the 2001 season.
The second inning effectively put the game away for the hosts, as Gardner-Webb sent 15 men to the plate, collected seven hits and took advantage of one error, three walks and a balk.
John Harris started the scoring with a bases-loaded bunt single down the third base line. A balk on Holy Cross (2-6) starter Vaughn Hayward made the score 2-0 and - after Benji Jackson loaded the bases again with a walk - Aaron Miller pushed a bunt single to first base to drive in the third run and keep the bases juiced. A fielder's choice plated the fourth run for Gardner-Webb, then Dusty Quattlebaum rapped a two-run single into right for a 6-0 lead. Daniel Merck singled home a run in his second at bat of the inning to push the score to 7-0 and Zeke Blanton made the score 9-0 with a two-run single. Harris' second hit of the frame made the score 10-0 before reliever Brendan McCrea could work out of the inning.
Holy Cross wouldn't go away quietly, plating three runs in the third on three hits and an error and making a game of it with four runs on three hits and another error in the fourth - trimming what had been a comfortable margin to 10-7.
Gardner-Webb rallied quickly, getting a two-run single from Blanton in the fourth to make the score 12-7. A double play squashed any chance at a bigger rally, however, and Holy Cross remained within striking distance.
The Crusaders' Jack Laurendeau drove in a run with a single in the sixth and Nick Ciardiello followed with an RBI knock up the middle with two outs off of reliever Brock Wilson to make the score 12-9 - but Wilson recovered with his third strikeout of the game to retire the side.
Emilio Pagan pitched around an error in the seventh to keep the Crusaders off the board, and Gardner-Webb got an RBI single from Merck in the bottom half of the same inning for some insurance. Pagan mowed down Crusaders in the eighth and ninth to keep the lead safe.
Wilson (1-0) got the win, working 2.2 innings in relief, scattering five hits and fanning three (one walk). Pagan picked up his first save, sharply working through 3.0 scoreless innings without allowing a hit (two strikeouts). Erik Heiligenstadt got the start and fanned three in 3.1 innings of work with six hits allowed.
Merck paced Gardner-Webb's 13-hit attack offensively, going 4-for-4 with three runs scored, two RBI and three stolen bases. He reached base five times. Blanton also reached base five times, going 2-for-2 with four RBI and three walks. Harris (3-for-3, 2 RBI, walk) also had a fine afternoon, and four other 'Dogs collected one hit each.
Hayward (0-1) took the loss Holy Cross, walking six and allowing seven earned runs on three hits in 1.1 innings of work. Alex Maldonado (3-for-5, three runs, RBI) and Jack Laurendeau (3-for-4, 3 RBI) paced an 11-hit day for the Crusaders, and Eric Oxford (1-for-4, 3 RBI) drove in three runs.
Gardner-Webb remains home for a busy weekend, hosting preseason top-25 foe St. John's for a three-game series at John Henry Moss Stadium / Bill Masters Field. The Runnin' Bulldogs and Red Storm get started on Friday at 6:00 pm, marking the first on-campus night baseball game in Gardner-Webb history.
Brandon Boling (1-0, 3.75 ERA) will get the start for the Runnin' Bulldogs Friday night, and is expected to face St. John's righty Kyle Hansen (1-1, 2.03 ERA).
Game two is set for Saturday at 2:00 pm, and will serve as Military Appreciation Day in Boiling Springs. All veterans, from any branch of the Armed Services, will be admitted free and are asked to sign in at Hamrick Gate to participate in a special pregame recognition. Former Gardner-Webb player and Iraqi War veteran Brett Mixon-Bunce will throw out Saturday's first pitch.
The series finale will be played Sunday at 1:00 pm.