SHILDON, Durham – Durham University opened up its autumn season with a 13-12 come-from-behind victory over the scrappy County Durham Spartans. Rookie hurler Taiga Satou and Laurence Hodgkins led the team on the hill and at the plate, respectively, as the Palatinates prepared for the 2016 Autumn National University Baseball Championship.
The game was the first derby ever between the two Durham sides, with the veteran BBF side playing an integral role in the formation of the university team. The Spartans reached out in January shortly after Zucker and Gabriel Fidler founded the club, giving bats, balls, helmets, and coaching support from Ricky Scott for the quickly growing DU club. Fresh off the 2016 British Baseball Federation Single-A Northern Division championship, the Spartans fielded a reduced side, as did the Palatinate team, which lost most of its spring starters.
Durham’s university side jumped to a 6-2 lead through five with Satou making his first appearance for the team. The righthander looked like a future star for the fourth-rated Black-and-Purple, giving up one hit, a double to Brian Dunkel, through five.
Dunkel, winning pitcher in the Northern Championship, hurled a complete game for the county nine and was in line for the win after the Spartans mounted a nine-run onslaught against reliever Robin Wallich. Wallich was a brilliant surprise when he toed the rubber in the spring campaign’s concluding weekend in Scotland, but it was not his day.
Durham’s bats came alive in the eighth, though, getting Wallich off the hook and giving him credit for his first career pitching victory (1-0). The rally was led by hits from Zucker, Laurence Hodgkins, and Cameron Richardson, as Durham poured on seven runs to take a 13-11 lead.
Zucker would come on to close the game for the Palatinate side and earned his first career save for Durham with two innings of one-run relief.
“Our hitting was decent and we had some really good baserunning,” noted Zucker. “Taiga was great and makes a really nice addition to our team. He’ll be one of only two rookies we’re taking to nationals.”
Hodgkins finished the game 3-for-4 with a double, while Richardson and Wallich collected a brace of hits. Richardson swiped a pair of bags and reached base three times. Satou went five innings and surrendered two runs, one earned, one a safety and four walks. He struck out four.
The victory ended a seven-game winless streak for the University’s baseballers, who finished the spring season 7-3-5. DU will travel to Britain’s national baseball facility at Farnham Park in Slough for the autumn NUBC this weekend.