The Citadel baseball team came up one run short of a come-from-behind win over Mercer on Thursday night, dropping the first game of the series 8-7.
Thanks to two leadoff home runs in the first and second innings by Clay Martin and Ben Peden, the Bulldogs (15-31, 5-11 SoCon) took an early 2-0 lead in the game.
Mercer (29-17, 13-6 SoCon) answered with five runs of its own in the bottom of the second to take a 5-2 lead. The Citadel responded with another run in the top of the third as Martin took advantage of a Mercer error on a grounder hit by Stephen Windham to scamper home and close the gap to two.
The Bears tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the fourth to make it an 8-3 ballgame.
Ben Peden drove in his second run of the game in the top of the fifth inning, stroking a two-out single through the right side to score Shy Phillips from second base and make it 8-4 Bears. The Citadel added another run in the top of the sixth off of a home run by Bret Hines to trim the lead to 8-5. The homer was the first of the season for Hines and just the second of his career.
Martin pulled the Bulldogs within one in the top of the eighth inning with a two-out double to left center field to make it 8-7. Martin finished the day with one single, two doubles and one homer.
The Bulldogs stranded two runners in the top of the ninth that would have proved to be the tying and go-ahead runs in the game.
Between the first and sixth innings, The Citadel plated a run in every inning except for the fourth. The Bulldogs finished with 11 hits in the game. Windham, Hines and Peden joined Martin with multiple hits in the contest.
Thomas Byelick got the start on the mound for the Bulldogs, tossing 3.0 innings and giving up four hits. Beau Strickland matched a career high with three Ks while throwing a career-high 2.1 innings of scoreless ball. The Citadel pitching staff held the nations’ home run leaders to just seven hits.
Stephen Windham threw out two runners in the game to run his season total up to 22.
The series between the Bulldogs and Bears continues Friday with game two of the series at 6 p.m. Live stats, audio and video will be available at CitadelSports.com for the game.