Three errors by Pittsburgh in the bottom of the ninth nearly paved the way for an Arkansas-Pine Bluff win, but the Golden Lions came up short as they fell 3-2 to the Panthers in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday night at Taylor Field.
“We had been getting guys on base all day,” UAPB head coach Carlos James said. “We just weren’t coming up with the timely hits to score a run.
“I don’t know how many runners we left on base, but I can tell you it is more than 10.”
UAPB (18-24) scored both of its runs in the bottom of the ninth but stranded the tying run at second and the winning run at first. The Lions managed just four hits and stranded 10 runners on base.
Pittsburgh defeated UAPB 4-2 in Game 2 of the doubleheader.
“That’s an ACC school,” James said. “It’s a power-six conference school. Our guys battled hard and we had a chance to win at the end.
“What more can I ask of them.”
Pittsburgh (18-22) committed three straight errors to start the ninth. Andre Davis reached second on a dropped fly ball to the shortstop to start the inning. He moved to third after an error by the third baseman, allowing Tyler Oertle to advance to second.
A groundball bobbled by the second baseman — the sixth error of the game for the Panthers — allowed Davis to score and Mitch Bruckshaw to reach first.
Jerimiah Figueroa hit a sacrifice fly to right field to get the Lions within one run. Jordan Haas hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out and after a walk to Mike Wieland, Isias Alcantar grounded out to the shortstop to end the game.
“For a little ol’ SWAC school to go, ‘You know what, we are going to play you toe-to-toe,’” James said. “I can’t ask for anything more from my team except a few timely hits.”
Pittsburgh scored a run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings — taking the 3-0 lead on a solo home run by Steven Shelinsky with two outs.
Shelinksy finished 2 for 4 with the RBI and run scored.
Jim Ploeger pitched six innings in the loss. He allowed three runs (all earned) on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
“One thing about it, it gave us a chance to win,” James said. “When he left the game, we were in striking distance.
“… He went six strong innings and then he turned it over to the bullpen and they didn’t give anything up the rest of the way.”
Pittsburgh starter Matt Wotherspoon pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“Their kid is their No. 1 guy,” James said. “He’s their Friday night starter in a power-six conference.
“That’s pretty much what happens.”
The Lions had chances to score a couple of runs midway through the game. UAPB had the bases loaded in the fifth but failed to get anyone across. They had two on with one out in the sixth but the next two batters struck out to end the inning.
“Playing at Taylor Field, if you get a couple guys on, you might pop one out of here,” James said. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Davis finished 1 for 4 with a run scored and Jose Hernandez finished 1 for 2. Vladimir Gomez and Joshua Cassidy had the other two hits for the Lions.
For Pittsburgh, Stephen Vranka finished 2 for 5 with an RBI and Boo Vazquez was 1 for 4 with an RBI.
“I actually like playing (at Taylor Field),” James said. “I wish we could play more games here.
“The surface needs to be upgraded to a college level. Hopefully we can get together with the city and upgrade the surface but other than that, everything is great.”
UAPB is scheduled to wrap up the three-game series at noon Sunday at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex.