Sanford, Fla., March 15, 2015 – The Washington University in St. Louis baseball team built a 5-1 lead and senior Chris Lowery threw out the tying run at the plate to end the eighth inning as the Bears held on for a 5-4 win over No. 9-ranked Emory University Sunday. It was the fifth consecutive win for the Bears, who earned a share of the fifth University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship in school history.
WashU improved to 7-3 overall and finished the 2015 UAA Championship with a 6-2 record, marking the team's best conference record in head coach Steve Duncan's five seasons. The Bears' other four UAA titles came in 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2013. Emory dropped to 12-5 overall and 6-2 in UAA play with the loss.
Leading 2-1 through the top of the fifth, WashU scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to extend its lead to 5-1. Sophomore Austin Darmawan reached for the third time in the game on a throwing error by the Eagles' shortstop and advanced to second on the play. A groundout by sophomore CJ Price moved Darmawan to third, before Lowery got his 11th RBI of the UAA Championship on a single to left field to extend WashU's lead to 3-1. After a flyout by senior Zack Kessinger, senior Brian Cizek drove a 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall for the second homerun of his career to make the score 5-1 in favor of the Bears.
The Eagles used a pair of singles to get runners on first and second with one out in the top of the sixth. Philip Maldari drove a ball to left center, but sophomore Scott Nelson made a diving catch for the second out and senior Kunal Patel got pinch hitter Ben Vizvary to ground out to first to get out of the inning with the Bears' 5-1 lead intact. The Eagles got a pair of two-out singles in the top of the seventh to cut the Bears' lead to 5-2.
Junior Julian Clarke replaced Patel in the top of the eighth. After getting the leadoff batter to line out to senior Brandon Deger in left field, Clarke gave up back-to-back singles and a double that cut the Bears' lead to 5-3. Senior Dom Quaranta relieved Clarke, and hit pinch hitter Brian Hernandez on a full count to load the bases with one out. Quaranta then got a big strikeout for the second out of the inning. Emory leadoff batter David Coble singled to right field to drive in a run, but Lowery threw out Vizvary at the plate to keep WashU ahead 5-4 heading to the bottom of the eighth. Cizek doubled down the left-field line with one out, but Emory got its second double play of the game to send the game to the ninth. With a one-run lead and facing the 2-3-4 hitters for the Eagles, Quaranta got back-to-back strikeouts before getting Wes Peacock to pop up to earn his second career save.
Darmawan led off the bottom of the first inning for WashU with a single through the right side of the infield, and moved to third with one out on a pair of wild pitches, but Emory starter Connor Dillman got back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning. The Eagles took advantage of a one-out error by WashU and used a pair of singles to score the first run of the game in the top of the second before junior Kyle Kozak threw out a runner at second and Patel got a called strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Nelson got a leadoff single, and senior Andrew Goldstick reached on an error by Dillman on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Darmawan followed with a bunt single down the third-base line that loaded the bases with no outs. Price reached on a fielder's choice to second that got Darmawan out but scored Nelson to tie the game at one run each. Emory turned a double play to end the Bears' scoring threat in the inning.
The Bears got their leadoff batter on base for the third time when Kessinger singled through the right side of the infield in the bottom of the fourth. He advanced to second on a sac bunt by Cizek and third on a wild pitch by Dillman before scoring on a sacrifice fly to center field by Deger to make it 2-1 in favor of the Bears. Kozak drew a two-out walk and Nelson followed with his second hit of the game, but a ground out ended the inning with runners on second and third for WashU.
Emory outhit WashU 10-8 in the game, but left nine base runners stranded compared with four for the Bears. Cizek (2-for-3, two RBIs, run), Darmawan (2-for-4, run) and Nelson (2-for-3, run) accounted for six of WashU's eight hits in the game. Patel (2-0) put together another strong outing for the Bears, limiting Emory to one earned run on six hits and two walks, while equaling his career-high with seven strikeouts. Clarke was charged with two earned runs on three hits in 1/3 of an inning of relief, while Quaranta picked up his first save of the season by giving up one hit and striking out three in 1 2/3 innings of work.
WashU returns to action with a doubleheader at Millikin University beginning at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. The Bears are scheduled to host their home opener against Illinois Wesleyan University at 3 p.m. Friday, March 20, at Kelly Field.
Bear Notebook: The Bears improved to 4-5 against Emory at the UAA Championship in the last five years … WashU's leadoff batter reached base in four of the first five innings … Lowery extended his hitting streak to seven games … Kessinger and Lowery have both reached base safely in all 10 of the Bears' games this season … WashU's starting pitchers threw at least six complete innings in all eight UAA Championship games … Lowery (.412) and Kessinger (.407) both batted above .400 while starting all eight games at the UAA Championship … As a team, the Bears finished the week batting .319 at the UAA Championship.