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Railsplitters fall to USC Aiken In season opener, 10-6

AIKEN, SC -- The Railsplitters opened the 2013 campaign by suffering a 10-6 loss to the tenth-ranked Pacers of the University of South Carolina Aiken on Friday afternoon in Aiken, South Carolina. Lincoln Memorial University (0-1) opened the game with a three-run outburst in the first frame but USC Aiken (1-0) limited the Railsplitters to only three hits over the final eight innings to take the victory.

Lincoln Memorial got off to a quick start by notching three runs in the top half of the opening frame, as Cody Baker and Nick Pressley led off the game by reaching on back-to-back errors by the Pacers' infield. Curt Fuqua was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat to load the bases with no outs and Josh Coker advanced the first run of the 2013 season home with an RBI walk two batters later. Following a strikeout, sophomore Nick Morabito picked up the Railsplitters' first hit of the season with a two-out single through the right side to bring home a pair of runs and put LMU on top, 3-0.

The Railsplitters only clung to that lead briefly, as the Pacers notched a two-run second inning and a three-run third inning to swing the momentum by assuming a 5-3 advantage. Ryan Metzler tallied a one-out RBI double and later scored on a balk to accumulate the scoring in the second frame. Bill Gerstenslag and Ty Barkell each recorded sacrifice flies, while Metzler pounded another RBI single to mount the scoring rally for the Pacers in the third frame.

The top of the fourth saw the Railsplitters respond with another three-run outburst, sparked by a Scott Miller leadoff single. Miller advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher and Cody Baker capitalized with an RBI single to open the scoring in that frame. Nick Pressley attempted a bunt in the next at-bat and the Pacers committed their fourth error of the contest on the throw, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Curt Fuqua and Andre Rodriguez plated both runs with consecutive sacrifice groundouts to lift the 'Splitters back on top at 6-5.

Starting pitcher Brandon Cowan handled the Pacers with ease in the bottom of the fourth, however, after issuing a two-out walk in the bottom of the fifth, Cowan gave way to reliever Seth Woods. Cowan capped his opening day outing with four and two-thirds innings pitched, allowing seven hits and five earned runs while striking out four.

Following a scoreless fifth inning and another scoreless frame for the Railsplitters in the top of the sixth, the Pacers broke the game open with a four-run bottom of the sixth, paced by four hits and no errors. Josh Miller drove the first run home with a one-out sacrifice fly, plating Sean Miller who reached on a leadoff double. Gerstenslag picked up his only hit of the game in the next at-bat with an RBI double and Ty Barkell followed that with another double. Lincoln Memorial called on the bullpen following that hit, bringing Ian Creager into the contest, and Creager allowed his only hit of the contest in the next plate appearance, as Ben Donath drilled a triple to center field to plate the final run of the inning for the Pacers.

The Railsplitters were held off the scoreboard over the final five innings and found themselves unable to record a hit over that span. The Pacers added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, as Donath notched his second RBI of the contest with a one-out sacrifice fly. Lincoln Memorial was set down in order in the top half of the ninth en route to a 10-6 loss against the tenth-ranked team in the country.

Senior Seth Woods was tagged with the loss after coming on in relief for the Railsplitters. Woods surrendered four earned runs and three hits in an inning of action. Ian Creager was a bright spot on the mound for LMU, as he came on in relief over the final two and a thirds inning to allow only one hit and no earned runs, striking out four in the process.

On the Pacers' side, Tyler Stephan picked up the win after relieving starter Ryan Milewski in the top of the fifth. Stephan tossed two innings strong without allowing a hit and struck out two. The trio of Danny Wissmann, Sam Daniel and Taylor Grover pitched the final three innings, allowing no hits and no runs while combining to fan seven batters.

The Railsplitters struggled on the offensive side of the ball, as they capped the contest with only four hits and 12 strikeouts. Cody Baker and Nick Pressley each recorded a hit at the top of the 'Splitters' lineup with Baker notching an RBI. Nick Morabito put in a 1-4 effort with two RBIs on his first-inning single. Josh Coker filed the final hit for the Railsplitters and also reached base safely on a walk. Curt Fuqua reached base twice on two hit-by-pitches.

The Pacers finished with 11 hits, as Bill Gerstenslag, Ty Barkell, Ben Donath and Ryan Metzler combined for seven of those hits and eight RBIs in the four through seven spots in the lineup. Donath led the offensive unit with a three-for-three effort and two RBIs. Bryce Baur also recorded two hits in the No. 2 spot for USC Aiken.

The Railsplitters will look to rebound tomorrow afternoon in the second game of a three-game set with the USC Aiken Pacers. First pitch in the swing game of the series is set for 1 p.m. in Aiken, South Carolina.

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