CHARLESTON, SC - Skylar Hunter tied the all-time Southern Conference saves record in a 5-3 Citadel win over UMBC in the opening game of Saturday's doubleheader at Riley Park before the Retrievers salvaged the final game of the series with an 8-5 victory in the nightcap.
The loss in the second game snapped The Citadel's nine-game winning streak and brought a 14-game homestand to an end. The Bulldogs (14-8) play at Winthrop on Tuesday in the makeup of an earlier rainout before opening SoCon play at Western Carolina next weekend.
Hunter recorded his ninth save of the season and 37th of his career to match Elon's Thomas Girdwood for the top spot in conference history. He stranded a runner at second in the eighth and allowed a run on two hits in the ninth before striking out Tim Kelly and getting Jake Barnes to fly out to right to secure the victory for starter JP Sears.
Sears won his fourth game of his freshman season by going a season-long 7 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and two runs with no walks and five strikeouts. He was backed by a 10-hit attack that included two doubles and three runs scored by fellow first-year player William Kinney.
Connor Walsh got The Citadel offense started with a sacrifice fly in the first, and Jason Smith singled in two runs in the second to stake the Bulldogs to a 3-0 lead. Smith had singles in his first two at bats, giving him six hits in a two-span game including four in the series opener on Friday.
Philip Watcher doubled in a run in the fourth and had an RBI single in the sixth to provide the Bulldogs a 5-1 cushion and enabled them to survive a late UMBC rally.
The second game was tied 3-3 in the ninth when Hunter walked consecutive batters to load the bases with two outs. Nick Naumann lined a 1-2 pitch into left center for a tiebreaking two-run single, and two errors helped UMBC tack on three more runs to build an 8-3 lead.
The Citadel scored twice in the bottom of the ninth before Patrick Phillips closed the door. The Bulldogs had battled back from an early 3-0 deficit, scoring two in the sixth when Walsh doubled in Johnathan Stokes and Austin Mapes, but Kinney grounded into a double play to help the Retrievers maintain the lead.
The Citadel finally tied it in the eighth when Mapes singled and eventually scored with the help of two wild pitches. But the Bulldogs again wasted an opportunity for more runs when pinch runner Shy Phillips was left at third after two stolen bases.