Hunter sets save record in Citadel sweep of Air Force

Skylar Hunter worked the final two innings of the second game to set a Citadel record with his 30th career save, and freshman Drew Ellis homered in both contests as the Bulldogs took both ends of a doubleheader against Air Force on Saturday and swept the season-opening three-game series at Riley Park.

The Bulldogs scored five times in the eighth inning to win the opener 8-3 and held off a Falcon rally for a 6-5 victory in the nightcap. The Citadel is 3-0 for the first time since 1983.

The Bulldogs hit the road with a Tuesday game at North Florida. The Citadel takes on College of Charleston next weekend with games at Patriots Point on Friday (3 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) and Riley Park on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Bulldogs used a baseball rarity to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth in the first game. After an Austin Mapes double put runners at second and third with nobody out, Falcon relief pitcher Nathan Stanford began to issue an intentional walk to Ellis when catcher Travis Wilkie left his box behind the plate before the ball was released.

A balk was charged to Wilkie, pushing across Philip Watcher with the go-ahead run. Ellis then drove home Mapes with an RBI single, and later in the inning freshman Clay Martin delivered his first collegiate hit, a pinch-hit triple with the bases loaded that broke the game open.

J.P. Sears, yet another first-year Bulldog, did not allow a hit over the final three innings and struck out three to pick up the victory. Austin Livingston went the first 5.1 innings and gave up all three Air Force hits and runs, and Zach Lavery stuck out the final two batters of the sixth with the bases full to keep The Citadel within 3-1.

The left-handed hitting Ellis went opposite field for his first career home run to lead off the second, and Johnathan Stokes brought the Bulldogs into a 3-3 tie with a two-run double in the sixth. Stokes had three hits including a pair of doubles, and Ellis reached base all four times with two hits, a walk and a hit by pitch.

Hunter moved ahead of Citadel Hall of Famer Hank Kraft on The Citadel’s all-time saves list in game two, but not before running into difficulty in the eighth. He surrendered two hits and a run in the inning before setting down the Falcons in order in the ninth.

Hunter, who struck out three in his two innings, also batted for the first time in his Bulldog career and chopped a single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth.

The Citadel took advantage of wildness by Air Force starter Jacob DeVries in the first, scoring runs on a wild pitch and an RBI single by Connor Walsh to take a quick 2-0 lead. Watcher doubled in a run in a two-run fourth, his first career hit, and Ellis bombed a homer to center an inning later to make it 5-0.

Two Falcon runs and a Mapes sacrifice fly in the sixth kept the Bulldogs ahead 6-2 when Air Force’s Tyler Jones and Jordan Hanlin reached Watcher for solo homers in the seventh to pull the visitors within 6-4.

Austin Mason threw six solid innings for The Citadel, allowing only three hits and two runs (one earned) with no walks and six strikeouts. Ross White got the final out in the seventh before Hunter closed it out.

Charleston Southern rallied twice from a pair of big early deficits to sweep an afternoon doubleheader and series from visiting Chicago State on Saturday. The Bucs rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win the opener 10-8 and bounced back from a five-run margin to win the nightcap, 12-11.

CSU improves to 3-0 for the second consecutive year, while Chicago State falls to 0-3.

Junior Bryan Dye went 3-for-4 with five RBI and had a pinch-hit two-run home run in the opener to fuel the Buccaneers’ rally.

The Buccaneers scored all 22 runs on the day in the fifth inning or later, including belting three late home runs to roar back to win the opener. CSU’s bullpen picked up both wins and senior Austin Weekley picked up his CSU record 20th career save.

Clemson 4, W. Virginia 2

Zack Erwin allowed just one run on four hits in six innings pitched to lead No. 24 Clemson to a 4-2 win over West Virginia at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

The Tigers evened the series 1-1 over the Mountaineers in both teams’ second game of the season.

Erwin earned the win by yielding just one walk with five strikeouts. Drew Moyer recorded his first save. West Virginia starter Ross Vance suffered the loss.

Clemson broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the fifth inning on Steven Duggar’s sacrifice fly. The Tigers added two insurance runs in the seventh inning, including one on Chase Pinder’s sacrifice fly.

Clemson and West Virginia play game three of the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.