Samford scored seven runs on eight hits over the fifth and sixth innings in an 8-3 victory over The Citadel in the rubber game of a Southern Conference series Sunday at Riley Park.
The Citadel managed only four hits against three Samford pitchers, including a solo home run by Calvin Orth, in dropping to 10-14 overall and 1-5 in the SoCon. Samford is 13-10 and 2-1 in the league and has won four of the last five series against the Bulldogs.
The Citadel took a 1-0 lead in the third when Orth launched a deep drive over the scoreboard in left for his first home run of the season. Starter Austin Mason made the one-run margin stand up through the first four innings, allowing only two hits while being aided by double play grounders in the first and second.
After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Mason was making his first weekend start of the year after serving as The Citadel's Sunday starter during his freshman campaign in 2013.
Samford finally reached the sophomore right hander in the fifth, loading the bases on singles by Drew McWhorter and Brandon Powell and a walk to Caleb Bryson. Ross White was called in to face a trio of left-handed hitters and retired two of them but allowed a bloop single to Danny Rodriguez to tie the game at 1.
Zach McKay relieved White with right-handed hitting Tyler Filliben coming to the plate, but Filliben crossed up the strategy when he lined a two-run single to right center to give Samford a 3-1 edge it would never relinquish.
Mason wound up allowing four hits and three runs with two strikeouts in seeing his record fall to 1-1. David Rivera had three strikeouts in 1.2 innings of relief while Austin Livingston fanned two in the ninth.
A sacrifice fly by Mason Davis cut the Bulldog deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth, but the Samford bats continued to smoke in the sixth with RBI singles by T.J. Dixon and Filliben highlighting a four-run frame that gave Samford a 7-2 cushion.
The Citadel had an opportunity for a big inning in the bottom of the sixth but fell victim to an umpire's decision at second. Two walks and a double by Tyler Griffin loaded the bases with nobody out and ended the day for Samford starter Alex Milazzo.
Connor Walsh, starting as the designated hitter for the second straight day, greeted reliever Chase Traffica with a drive to the warning track in right center. Samford right fielder Heath Quinn made a tremendous catch at the wall, allowing each runner to advance with Bo Thompson crossing the plate.
That's when a potential huge inning was thwarted by a rare umpire call. Samford appealed that Griffin failed to re-tag second after Quinn's catch, and the gambit paid off when Griffin was called out. Orth flied out to end the inning, and The Citadel had to settle for just the one run.
Traffica worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh, and closer Andres Gracia stranded two runners in the eighth before setting the Bulldogs down in order in the ninth. Milazzo (3-1) was the winner, allowing all four hits and all three runs while striking out four in five innings.
The Citadel remains home for a pair of midweek games against in-state rivals, hosting Coastal Carolina on Tuesday at 4 p.m. followed by a contest with Charleston Southern on Wednesday at 6 p.m.