Two days earlier than anticipated, EMU's baseball men stepped onto the field for opening day. The Royals played well but one swing of the bat sent them to a 2-0 loss at North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mount, N.C.
It was a solid showing against a team from the well-respected USA South, as Eastern Mennonite put only two returning regular starters onto the field.
The teams get back onto the field on Friday, playing a doubleheader of seven-inning games. First pitch is at 12:30pm. The three-game series had originally been scheduled for this weekend, but was moved up due to the forecasted weather.
Thursday's season opener for both teams was an all-out pitchers' duel. Right-hander Damon Frazier (Waynesboro, Va./Wilson Memorial) started as EMU's ace for the second straight season, while junior righty Nate Gardner assumed the role for a NCWC squad that graduated four of their top five pitchers from last year. In nine starts in 2017, Gardner went 3-3 with a 2.49 ERA.
EMU crowded the plate against the Battling Bishops and earned four baserunners via bean balls through the first five innings. Daniel Scott (Moneta, Va./Staunton River) added a single in the third inning, but was cut down on a double play. It was a similar story in the fifth, when back-to-back HBPs put two runners on with just one out, before a ground ball ended the rally.
Frazier, meanwhile, hit a little bump in the first, giving up a leadoff single followed by a walk. He struck out the next batter, however, and then coaxed a 6-4-3 double play to escape unscathed. Frazier got another inning-ending DP in the fourth and put down the side in order in the fifth.
There was quick trouble in the bottom of the sixth with a one-out walk. The next batter, Max Johnson, drove a homerun to center, suddenly giving the Battling Bishops a 2-0 lead.
Gardner threw one more scoreless frame before NCWC's bullpen finished things up, with a two-out walk in the eighth being the Royals' only baserunner over the final four innings.
Scott got EMU's only hit out of the leadoff spot.
Frazier took the loss, only allowing the two runs and three hits over 6.1 innings. Tyler Campbell (Luray, Va./Luray) allowed just two hits over the final 2.2.