BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Most teams travel south to escape the cold weather but both Adrian and Birmingham Southern had to deal with temps in the 30's and upper 20's by the end of the game on Friday. The season opener for the Bulldogs pitted the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs against the 18th-ranked Cougars in an early test for both squads. BSC entered the game 2-0 after scoring double-digits runs in their first two wins. The Cougars used two big innings to claim a 6-5 win over Adrian.
Senior Eric Schmidt took the mound opposed by Blake Stevens who was an All-American and SAA Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2014. A pitcher's duel saw both pitchers limited the opposing lineup to one hit through four innings. Stevens allowed one hit into the sixth inning and got run support with a three-run fifth by the Cougars. Jake Rhodes had the third straight hit to start the inning and singled home a pair of runs for a 2-0 lead. Rhodes advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a Brandon Marino RBI groundout.
Adrian cracked the run column in the top of the sixth. Ben Yax singled and stole second to start the inning. Josh Knorr reached on an error setting up second and third with no outs. Jeff Gertley hit a sacrifice fly to right scoring Yax for the season's first run. The Bulldogs stranded two runners and trailed 3-1. Kyle Royalty entered the game on the mound for Birmingham Southern in the top of the seventh and pitched a clean inning.
The Bulldogs tied the game with two runs in the top of the eighth. Knorr doubled to left and Gertley singled him over to third. Ryan Dorow delivered a double to left scoring Knorr as Gertley moved to third. David Bourbonnais relieved Royalty and the first batter he faced was Drew Shutes. The senior outfielder lifted a sacrifice fly to right to tie the game at 3-3 scoring Gertley. Dorow moved to third with one out but back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning.
Schmidt began to lose his control in the bottom of the eighth. He plunked the first two batters and then Zach Rhodes bunted both runners to second and third. Junior Tommy Eng came out of the bullpen in a jam and could not hold off the Cougars. Sam Roberts had a RBI groundout to give BSC a 4-3 lead. Bourbonnais was hit by a pitch and Jacob Mayfield then scored on a wild pitch for a 5-3 lead. Jack Rhodes walked and Marino became the fourth player hit by pitch in the inning. David Scott laid down a bunt single with the bases loaded for a 6-3 lead. The Cougars scored three runs on just one hit in the inning.
Adrian did not go quietly in the top of the ninth against Bourbonnais. Ian Mikowski pinch hit for Matt Andrus and singled to center to start the inning. Dakota Cararo bounced out to first moving Mikowski to second. With two outs, Knorr singled to center and Mikowski advanced to third. Gertley then doubled down the right field line scoring Mikowski for a 6-4 deficit. Dorow was walked intentionally to load the bases and then Shutes drew a walk for an RBI and 6-5 score. Travis Potter had a chance to continue the rally but struck out swinging to end the contest.
Schmidt (0-1) took the loss going 7.1 innings and allowing six hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out four. Stevens did not factor in the decision going six innings with two walks and six strikeouts. Bourbonnais (1-0) threw two relief innings and allowed two earned runs with four strikeouts. The Bulldogs will play twice on Saturday beginning with Transylvania around 2:30 p.m. and then will face BSC again 30 minutes after the Transylvania game.