Bo Thompson returned from a three-game absence with a vengeance, slamming home runs in each of his first three at bats to lead The Citadel to a 12-3 win over Samford in the Southern Conference opener for both teams Friday at Riley Park.
The Citadel won its fourth in a row to improve to 9-5 overall while Samford saw its four-game winning streak come to an end and fell to 9-6. The two teams meet in the middle game of the series Saturday at 3:30 and wrap up the set Sunday at 1:00.
Thompson injured his ankle against VCU and missed the doubleheader sweep over UNC Asheville and Wednesday's victory over Winthrop. He was in the lineup as the designated hitter on Friday and in his first at bat capped off a three-run first inning with a two-run shot to left center to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead.
The sophomore slugger added another two-run shot in the third and had a solo homer just inside the left field foul pole in the sixth to build The Citadel margin to 6-1. All three of Thompson's home runs came off starter C.K. Irby, the reigning SoCon Pitcher of the Week, who was touched up for seven hits and six runs in six innings.
Thompson is the second player this season to hit three home runs in a game for The Citadel, joining Tyler Griffin who blasted three against North Florida on Feb. 23. It is the fifth time in school history that a player had three round trippers in a game, with the others being Garrick Haltiwanger vs. South Carolina in 1994, Philip Hartig vs. UNC Greensboro in 2001 and Richard Jones vs. Davidson in 2009.
After drawing a walk in the seventh, Thompson had one more chance for his fourth homer of the night in the eighth but settled for a single to left as part of a five-run inning that put the game out of reach. He tied his career high with four hits and set a new personal best with five RBI. Thompson took over the team lead in home runs this season with five, one more than Griffin.
Austin Pritcher was the beneficiary of the big offensive night for the Bulldogs in earning his third win of the season without a loss. The senior allowed five hits and all three Samford runs, walked four and struck out eight to raise his career win total to 17, the most among active SoCon pitchers. Pritcher fanned the side in the fourth as part of a span in which he punched out seven batters in three innings.
Pritcher gave up a single to Zeth Stone and an RBI double to Tommy Corbin in the first to see his consecutive innings streak of not allowing an earned run at Riley Park end at 37 1/3. Samford scored twice in the top of the seventh on RBI singles by Corbin and Irby to cut The Citadel lead to 7-3 before reliever David Rivera got a grounder to the mound to leave the bases loaded.
In addition to his three-run homer, DeKerlegand also had a run-producing single following a leadoff triple by Mason Davis in the bottom of the first that wiped out an early 1-0 Samford lead. Hughston Armstrong also contributed two hits to the Bulldog attack.