Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. File photo of Jay Kluka pitching against Shippensburg in 2014.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - - A walk-off home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth spoiled the Wilmington University baseball season opener, as Bridgeport defeated the Wildcats, 4-3, on Friday night at the Ripken Experience.
The Wildcats (0-1) fought back from a 2-0 hole to eventually take a 3-2 lead after six innings, but the Purple Knights (1-0) tied the game in the seventh before the walk-off to dead center sealed the victory in both team's 2016 season opener.
The homer wasted strong pitching performances from starter Jay Kluka and Zach Rumford, as they struck out six batters through the first eight innings. Kluka went the first five innings, only allowing two runs on four hits while striking out four batters. Rumford went the next three innings, giving up the tying run but struck out two batters and only allowing three hits. Brad Scull earned the loss in his collegiate debut.
The Purple Knights got on the board in the bottom of the first, as a lead off double came around to score on an RBI ground out. Bridgeport then took a 2-0 lead with another run in the fourth, as a two-out single scored a runner from second.
The Wildcats struck back in the fifth inning, scoring a run before leaving the bases loaded with potential for more damage. With the bases loaded and one out, Christian Adorno grounded into a fielder's choice, scoring Jesse Long from third to cut the deficit in half. Julian Kurych walked to reload the bases, but the Purple Knights induced a ground out to get out of the inning.
Kluka set the Knights down in order in the bottom of the fifth, getting the offense back up to the plate. With two outs and JR Gregory on third, the Wildcats were able to tie the game as Gregory came home on a wild pitch. Long walked to continued the inning, following by an infield single from Nick Macey. Dan Hyatt picked up his first collegiate hit with a double to right field, scoring Long from second. Macey was sent home to extend the lead even more, but the relay beat Macey to the plate for the final out of the inning.
Rumford worked a scoreless sixth inning before the Purple Knights executed a first and third play in the seventh inning, allowing the game-tying run to score.
The Wildcats went quietly in the eighth inning before getting a leadoff walk from Long in the ninth. After a sac bunt and a ground out moved Long to third base, the Purple Knights got Adorno to fly out to left to leave Long stranded at third.
Macey went 2-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice for the Wildcats, while Adorno and Hyatt each finished with a double and an RBI. Long scored twice while going 1-for-2 with two walks.
The Wildcats continue their season opening weekend on Saturday with games against Southern New Hampshire (10:00 a.m.) and New Haven (4:00 p.m.) at the Ripken Experience.