CNU Splits at Averett for USA South Series Win; Shuts Out Averett in Game Two of Doubleheader

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DANVILLE, Va. -- Junior Bryan Bierlein and senior closer Ryan Fleischmann combined for the Captains second shutout of the season, blanking the Averett Cougars (20-11, 10-8) in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, 4-0. Rookie Brandon Taylor was a hard-luck loser for CNU in game one after a complete-game gem, falling 2-1 as the teams split the conference doubleheader. CNU saw its record run to 20-7-1 overall, with a 16-5 mark against league opponents. 

Bierlein and Taylor ran the Captains impressive streak of quality starts against USA South opponents to 19 games, each posting strong outings on Saturday. Taylor (5-1) suffered his first loss despite a complete game effort, tossing eight innings in the first game. The rookie left-hander scattered five hits and allowed just one earned run, striking out eight batters. Taylor worked in the zone all day, throwing over 75% of his pitches for strikes and not surrendering a free pass all day.

Averett's Andrew Kirks was just marginally better, though, and picked up the win with a complete game gem of his own. Kirks only allowed four hits to the Captains, struck out eight and gave up just one run. 

After Kevin Alvarez led off the second inning with a double, and moved up on a sacrifice bunt, Zach Boraski drove in the first run with a groundout. CNU tied things up in the top of the fifth when designated hitter Andy Viands drove in a run with two outs, plating Travis Younger on the play. 

The winning run would come around to score in the eighth when an errant throw on a stolen base attempt allowed pinch runner J.R. Wood to come home to score. CNU couldn't answer in the top of the ninth, as Kirks closed out the win. 

In game two, the Captains offense staked Bierlein to an early lead, scoring one run in the first and another in the third. Jacob Houston and Kyle Corwin each had two-out RBI base hits, as Viands and Houston would come around to score for CNU. 

Meanwhile, on the mound, Bierlein was spinning one of his best starts of the year. The Captains' junior ace allowed just five hits through the first eight innings, and only once allowed more than one base runner in an inning. In the fourth, the first two batters singled against the CNU starter, and moved into scoring position on an Alvarez sacrifice bunt. Bierlein would strike out Kirks and got a groundout from Cody Moore to end the threat unscathed.

CNU tacked on two more runs in the sixth and seventh, as Billy Steel drove in a run and Corwin picked up his second RBI. Still, things would get interesting in the ninth as the Cougars looked for a come-from-behind rally. 

Bierlein started the final inning, looking for a complete game, but after Kirks led off with a single and Moore walked, head coach John Harvell would call on his senior closer. Fleischmann promptly gave up a single to pinch hitter Jason Carter, loading the bases with nobody out, for just his fifth hit surrendered this season. A ground ball to the third baseman cut down the runner headed home for the first out, and then Fleischmann struck out two batters looking to leave the bases loaded. 

The save was his ninth conversion of the year, increasing his career total to 27. He is now tied for eighth all-time at NCAA Division III, with Wheaton's Josh Simmons ('08). Opponents are hitting just .098 against the right-handed closer, as he lowered his ERA to 0.60. It was also his 80th career relief appearance, moving him into a tie for 10th all-time in NCAA Division III history.

Offensively, the Captains put up 15 hits in game two, seeing eight starters with at least one hit apiece. Houston and Corwin each had three-hit performances, while Steel, Tommy Kane and Christopher McDougal all added multi-hit efforts. 

The Captains is back in action this week with four games at home, starting with a 2:00 pm tilt on Wednesday, March 27 against Mary Washington.