March 8, 2014

UMBC Splits Two at Chanticleer Classic as Stephenson Shuts Down UNC Greensboro in Nightcap

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – UMBC sophomore right-hander Riley Stephenson (Frederick, Md./Boonsboro) threw 7.1 innings of shutout ball and junior Jonny Dierks (Easton, Md./Independence/Fort Scott CC) finished it ofshf for his first career save as the Retrievers defeated UNC Greensboro, 2-0, in the nightcap of the Chanticleer Classic, Saturday at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelican Ballpark.

Immediately prior to the game against the Spartans, UMBC (1-4) was edged by Elon, 3-1, as the Phoenix rallied for three runs in the seventh.

The shutout is the second combined effort Stephenson's young career after he helped blank Coppin State last season on May 9 at Joe Cannon Stadium.  On Saturday night, Stephenson (1-1) baffled UNC Greensboro, scattering five hits while striking out six and not allowing a free pass.  Dierks was equally impressive out of the pen, not allowing a base runner in 1.2 innings of work.

Ryan Clark (1-2) was a tough-luck loser for the Spartans (5-7), only giving up two runs, one earned, on three hits in eight innings on the mound.  The Retrievers were able to draw four walks against the right-hander. 

Both teams went down in order in the first, but UNC Greensboro looked to strike first in the second inning as Jordan McDonald and Nick Chapman each singled to lead off the frame.  Sean Guite lined into a double play, however, and Stephenson then fanned Aaron Wright to end the threat.

The Retrievers backed up their starter in the top of the third as sophomore Mark Esposito (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional) started the rally innocently with a one-out walk.  He moved to second on a ground out and the came around to score as the Spartan defense committed two errors on a ball off the bat of freshman Andrew Casali (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan).

The game stayed that way through the seventh as Stephenson and Clark dueled.  The two pitchers combined to give up just three hits between the fourth and seventh innings. 

In the eighth, Casali initiated the Retriever rally by singling up the middle.  The freshman outfielder then stole second, his first career base swipe, and moved to third on a fly ball to right.  Sophomore Kevin Lachance (Clifton, Va./Centreville) doubled the Retrievers' lead by pulling a single to left and bringing in Casali from third.

That would be all the support Stephenson and Dierks would need as the two right-handers combined to throw UMBC's first shutout of the year.

In the Retrievers' opening game of the day, UMBC also jumped out to an early lead.  Junior Jake Barnes (Annandale, Va./Annandale) doubled to left center with one out in the bottom of the second for UMBC's first hit of the day.  After moving to third on a ground out, Barnes came in to score on a single to center from junior Ryan Sliwak (Wantagh, N.Y.Wantagh/Nassau CC).

Senior Mac Gill (Bethesda, Md./Walter Johnson) pitched well in his second start of the season, but was ultimately undone in the seventh as Elon rallied for three runs.  Gill (1-1) pitched 6.1 innings for the Retrievers, surrendering just two earned runs on seven hits.

His Elon counterpart, Michael Elefante (3-0), was just slightly better, limiting the Retrievers to the one run on eight hits in 7.0 innings of work.  Ryan Pennell threw scoreless two innings to earn his third save of the season.

UMBC wraps up play at the Chanticleer Classic on Sunday evening by taking on weekend host Coastal Carolina.  First pitch at TicketReturn.com Field is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

DAWG BITES

-          Saturday's first game was the first-ever between UMBC and Elon. 

-          UMBC's win over UNC Greensboro was the program's second in 12 meetings and first since March 18, 1995.  The teams played 11 times as Big South rivals between 1994 and 1997.

-          The Retrievers are now 10-25 all-time in games played in the Palmetto State.

-          UMBC shut out opponents three times in 2013 after failing to record a shutout in 2012.