The Oglethorpe baseball team scored six runs over the first three innings Tuesday afternoon on the campus of No. 3 Emory and, though the home-standing Eagles mounted a comeback, the Stormy Petrels held on down the stretch for a 7-6 victory over their highly-ranked crosstown rivals on a frigid afternoon in Atlanta. The win marks the team’s first victory over a Top 10 opponent since they defeated No. 3 Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Auburndale, Fla., in 2011 and serves as an excellent start to their 12-game road swing.
The Petrels scored three runs in each of the first two innings, using a two-run homer by senior designated hitter Patrick Kulick and a two-run double by third baseman Austin Ferlita as the big blows en route to a 6-1 lead. They would expand that lead to 7-1 in the fifth while Oglethorpe junior starting pitcher Kyle Mitchell was shutting the Eagles down, not allowing a hit over his first 4-2/3 innings. The Eagles picked up three unearned runs to get back into the game in the sixth, but the visitors used solid relief work by sophomores Justin Thigpen and Matt Davis to secure the victory down the stretch.
The Petrels got an excellent start from Mitchell, who recorded the victory in his first action of the new season. He went five innings allowing just one earned run on three Emory hits. He struck out five and walked three, but got out of a pair of jams over the first couple of innings after allowing leadoff walks in each, giving up just a single unearned run over those two frames. Davis recorded his first career save, mowing Emory down in the ninth in order with a pair of strikeouts. Thigpen went two innings and allowed just one hit and one unearned run while Traxler allowed three unearned runs and two hits over his single inning of work, striking out two.
Kulick put together his best day at the plate so far this season, enjoying a 3-for-3 afternoon with a home run, two walks, two RBIs, two runs scored, and a stolen base. Junior first baseman Keith Dearden also hit the ball very well on the afternoon, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a run scored. Ferlita went 1-for-5 at the plate, but the hit was his two-run double that gave his team the lead in the first. He came around to score later in the inning.
The Petrels outhit their highly-ranked rivals 12-6 on the afternoon with both teams committing three errors. As a pitching staff, Oglethorpe allowed just a single earned run while Emory allowed five of them.
The Petrels began their excellent afternoon at the plate in the top of the first when junior shortstop Spence Transue doubled with one out and Kulick singled up the middle off the Emory pitcher’s glove. Ferlita’s double then drove home both runners and gave the Petrels a 2-0 lead. Freshman catcher Adrian Celata followed by reaching on an error and Dearden singled through the left side of the infield, loading the bases. After an Emory pitching change, senior right fielder Joey McAlpin brought Ferlita to the plate with a fielder’s choice and the Petrels had a 3-0 lead right away.
Emory answered with their unearned run in the bottom half and the Petrels came right back in the second. Senior left fielder Andre Turnquest reached with a leadoff infield single and stole second. He then advanced to third on a Transue groundout and Kulick followed with a long home run past the scoreboard in right-center field, giving the Petrels a 5-1 lead. The Petrels weren’t done in the inning, though. Celata reached on a two-out infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Dearden then reached on an Emory error and Celata scored on the play, giving the Petrels a 6-1 advantage.
Neither team scored again until the fifth, when Dearden led off the top half of the inning with a double and scored on a single from senior center fielder Vernon Trice to make the score 7-1. Emory got a run back in the bottom half of that inning and scored three more in the sixth to cut the Petrel lead to 7-5. The Petrels got big outs from their relief corps down the stretch, though, as Traxler stranded runners at the corners to end that inning and Thigpen stranded runners at the corners in the seventh.
In the eighth, Emory got another run back on a Petrel error to pull to within a single run and put the potential tying run in scoring position for Emory slugger Brett Lake, a preaseason All-America selection. Thigpen got Lake to pop out to second, though, to end the threat and Davis was dominant in the ninth inning, securing the Oglethorpe victory.
“I can’t say enough how proud I am of the guys,” said Head Coach Dan Giordano. “We were locked in from the first pitch and, even though Emory made a comeback, we were able to stay strong and make quality pitches and defensive plays when we needed to. It was a total team effort today and I think this shows what we’re capable of.”
“We’ll enjoy this one tonight,” Giordano continued, “but we have another huge challenge this weekend at Birmingham-Southern. We are excited to get back on the diamond and compete against the best.”
The win improves Oglethorpe to 4-2 on the young season. The Petrels will travel to Birmingham, Ala., over the weekend to compete against the Panthers in the opening series of the SAA schedule for both teams. Birmingham-Southern stands now as the No. 18 team in the nation and the favorite to win a second consecutive league title, so the Petrels will again have their work cut out for them. The two teams will play a single game Friday night at 7 p.m. Eastern before returning the next day for a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern.