No. 16 CNU Baseball Belts 20 Hits in Come From Behind Win Over Virginia Wesleyan, 14-10

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- For the first time in the 18-year coaching tenure of head coach John Harvell, and what is thought to be the first time in the history of CNU baseball, the Captains smacked 20 or more hits in back-to-back games when they posted 20 in a 14-10 come-from-behind win over Virginia Wesleyan University (8-7) on Thursday afternoon. All nine Captains registered at least one hit and seven CNU players posted multi-hit efforts while scoring all 14 runs after the fourth inning. 

After posting 23 hits against Penn State Berks in CNU's last action, the offense continued to fire on all cylinders on Thursday with a 20-hit performance against the Marlins. It's the first time since 2015 that CNU has had multiple 20-hit games in a season and the first time since Harvell took the reins in 2001 that the team has gone for 20 in back-to-back games. 

Leading the charge were juniors Austin Henry (3-for-3, 2 BB) and Jordan Mason (3-for-5, 1 BB), as both reached base at least four times in the contest. With them setting the table, the middle of the Captains' lineup cleaned up, as senior Craig Johnson, junior Nicholas Baham, and sophomores Andrew Suppa and Alex Abbey  combined for 10 hits and 10 RBI. 

The Captains fell way behind Virginia Wesleyan in the road contest, who was looking to avenge a 17-0 loss in Newport News earlier this season.  The Marlins jumped on CNU starter Logan Harrelson, scoring five runs in the first two innings in the senior's first hiccup of the season. Brandon Kussmaul delivered an RBI single in the first and Randy Neisz added a two-run, two-out double in the second as the Marlins built the lead. 

After a solo home run to lead off the third, CNU called on Thomas Packert in relief. The Marlins would extend the lead to 7-0 in the fifth when Packert surrendered a one solo home run before giving way to Brian Owens out of the bullpen. Owens settled the Marlins offense down, cruising through 3.0 innings of work as the Captains mounted their comeback. 

Offensively, CNU got on the board first in the fifth when junior Ryan Grubbs delivered a solo home run. It was his lone hit of the day, but got the Captains on the board and kick-started the dangerous offense in the second half of the ball game. Craig Johnson added a lead off home run in the sixth, and Andrew Suppa came in to score on a bases loaded walk by Austin Henry. 

The big innings for CNU came in the 7th and 8th, as CNU took the lead with seven runs in the late innings. Conner Clark led off with a single through the left side, followed by a rip by Seth Woodard. The base knock for Woodard extended his season-opening hit streak to 17 games. Nicholas Baham would step in and deliver a one-out double to score Clark and then would race home behind Woodard on a double by Alex Abbey. The sophomore started in the DH slot for the first time this season and delivered an impressive effort in his debut, going 2-for-5 with 3 RBI. 

The four-run eighth saw CNU take the lead against the Virginia Wesleyan bullpen. Henry walked, and Mason reached on a picture-perfect bunt to put the go-ahead run at the plate. Clark singled up the middle to load the bases and Woodard came through with a sacrifice fly. After Wesleyan nearly escaped with the second out, Baham, Suppa, and Abbey went back-to-back-to-back with RBI knocks to get the Captains in front, 10-8. 

The Marlins cut the lead in half with one run in the bottom of the 8th, but CNU tacked on four insurance runs in the top of the ninth to seal up their fifth straight victory. Woodard added another sacrifice fly, Johnson a two-run double, and Baham another RBI knock with a double down the left field line.  

The Captains' bullpen was lights out, as Owens came on in the fifth and promptly retired the side on six pitches. He allowed just two hits in his first three innings of work. He worked through scoreless frames in the sixth and seventh, putting himself in position for the win when the Captains took the lead in the top of the 8th. In the bottom half, CNU called on senior closer Joe Burris with a two-run lead. He allowed a lead-off single and RBI triple, putting the game-tying run just 90 feet away with no out. Burris struck out the next batter and got the following to fly out to shallow center field. Burris then induced an inning-ending foul out to the right fielder, ending the threat. In the ninth, Burris ran into some more trouble, but with a five-run lead after the Captains exploded for four in the ninth, he was able to work around it while surrendering just a single unearned run. He earned the save, his third of the season, with 1.1 innings of work. 

The Captains will stay on the road for a matchup with Averett University on Sunday, March 18, and a trip to North Carolina Wesleyan on Monday, March 19.