SHEFFIELD – Sam Ross went 6-for-6 and was impressive in a game two start and Gabriel Fidler collected his first university hit in dramatic style, launching a grand slam to propel Durham (7-1) to a doubleheader sweep of the University of Sheffield (3-7). Andrew Poole and Brad Jones also launched four-baggers in 16-10 and 13-2 victories.
The Black-and-Purple jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first inning in impressive fashion. After back-to-back hits by Poole and Harry Winter, Brad Jones drilled a three-run bomb to left centre. Ross followed with a double and Cameron Richardson drove him home with an opposite field base safety.
An infield hit and a hit batter set up Fidler for the moment, and Durham’s president ripped a 1-0 pitch down the right field line for the grand slam. With the mercy rule in effect, only one run was counted, and Fidler settled for the silent treatment upon touching home.
Sheffield got to work in the bottom of the frame as Fidler walked the leadoff batter, who took third on a ground-rule double by Tom McDonald. A grounder from Kyra Bradley would plate the run, and Andrew Cuthill launched a two-run homer to make the score 5-3. Durham’s starter would bear down and get out of the thrown with a comebacker and a strikeout.
In the second inning, it was Poole’s turn for the spotlight. With one own, Durham’s third sacker crushed a 1-0 pitch to left centre field for a no-doubt roundtripper. The drive carried well over 300 feet and was the first of the season for the finalist.
“I kind of thought it was going straight to the leftfielder, but it just kept going,” observed Poole. “After that I just worked on my home-run trot.”
With two down, the Palatinates added two more runs on another run-scoring single from Richardson. Jack Andrew was not about to be outdone, drilling a double to left field that narrowly missed clearing the fences.
With the score 8-3, Fidler walked two batters before getting in the groove, getting a nifty double play from Harry Winter to Brad Jones in the inning.
Fidler led off the top of the third with another rocket to the right field corner, this time hustling to third for a three-bagger. He came home on a grounder by Findlay Caplan, but with the bases empty, Durham was hardly finished. Poole stroked a one-base hit to right before Winter beat out an infield hit. Jones and Ross followed with two-baggers, the first score a single run and the second a pair. Andrew would put on the mercy rule with his third hit of the game, and Durham was up 13-3.
Fidler ran into trouble in the third, walking the first four batters in the frame before getting a K. Another free pass plated a second run, with a third coming home on a wild pitch, though the righty finished with a whiff and a comebacker.
In Durham’s final inning, Fidler worked a six-pitch walk and swiped second and third. Sheffield’s new hurler, Cuthill, got two strikeouts, and it appeared that the Hornets would get their first scoreless inning despite a second walk. Winter had other ideas, though, lacing a triple to right field to score two. The 16th run for the Black-and-Purple would come via wild pitch.
Needing only to quickly get the Palatinate side back to the dugout and end the game, Fidler returned to the hill and showed some fatigue, walking the first two batters before hitting the third. An infield hit would plate one and two more free passes saw the score go to 16-9. A nifty sacrifice fly from Elliot Parker would score the final run and Fidler reached back for just enough to end the game with his fourth strikeout and a nice catch on a foul popup by Ross. The win moved the righty to 2-0 on the season.
Durham pounded out 19 hits in the game, including four doubles, two triples, and three four-baggers. Poole, Ross, Richardson, and Andrew were all 3-for-3, with the first two joining Winter in scoring three runs. Fidler reached base three teams and accumulated seven total bases, most in the game, gaining credit for the win despite his worst start of the season.
“The long hours Cameron has put in at the batting cage have really paid off,” noted Poole of his teammate’s strong performance.
In the second contest, the visitors would once more jump out to a lead in the opening frame, with a double from Jones plating Poole, who had worked a free pass. Ross would drive home Jones with a bingle to right, and he would score the inning’s third run on an error.
Ross toed the rubber for Durham, and gave up a leadoff hit to McDonald, loading the bases with one out after plunking a batter and issuing a base on balls. It appeared the righthander would escape unscathed, but a nice one-base bloop by Cuthill, the game two starter, would plate the run.
Kohei Oi would take the hill for the Black-and-Yellow, and immediately ran into trouble, walking two before a fielding error allowed one to score. Ross then stepped up to the plate and helped his own cause, drilling a two-run safety to the opposite side to score two. A Brad Bentz RBI-single would score Ross and the frame ended with the margin at 7-1.
Durham’s hurler looked locked in for the second frame, working around a one-out walk before ending the frame on a filthy breaking ball for the punchout. Oi followed with his own scoreless frame before Sheffield turned a leadoff walk and a one-out hit by Oi into a run after the leadoff runner, Mat Clear, stole third and continued home when the throw from home took a bad hop in front of the bag.
Ross would get two groundballs to get out of the frame, running his record to 2-0 with three innings of three-hit, one earned run-pitching. He whiffed four and walked three.
“I think the intrasquad served as a nice tuneup for this. The inning I pitched during that set me up quite well for pitching a few innings today,” concluded Ross. “It was a great team win.”
Durham would pad its lead in the final inning, with the big blows a two-run single from Andrew, a rocket of a double from Winter to plate a pair, and a run-scoring single from Caplan. Winter switched to the left side for his two-bagger. All told, the visitors scored 13 runs on eight hits.
Andrew came on for the final frame and was impressive in a single frame, striking out a pair and not walking a batter. Ross and Andrew held Sheffield to only three hits, half their total on the day.
The hitting accolades were plentiful for the streaking Durham side, who have won six in-a-row. Ross paced the team in hits in the two victories with six, driving in five, hitting a pair of doubles, and stealing three bases. Poole reached base six times as well, with an equal number of hits and free passes, crossing home five times.
Winter finished a homer short of a cycle for the day, touching home five times himself while showing off his recently developed switch-hitting. Jones had five RBI on two doubles and a home run. The doubleheader saw also the first-team debuts for Findlay Caplan, Thomas Marsh, Jenny Laurence, and Talia Caplan.
Durham next takes the field in Belfast at the Ulster Invitation Tournament on May 28-29, taking on the Ulster Buccaneers, Dublin Spartans, Glasgow, and Tonbridge in the opening round. Stay tuned to @durham_baseball and Extra Innings for all the details.