COLUMBIA, Mo. – Cole Doherty had been nearly unhittable in his first five outings of the 2017 season, resulting in three saves, but Columbia College's Kenny Piper found a way to get through on the Park University senior Tuesday in the ninth inning, singling to center to score Ethan Howser, ending a 5-4 win for the Cougars over the Pirates in the first meeting of old rivals since the early 1980s.
The win pushed Columbia (16-7) forward as the only unbeaten in the American Midwest Conference, at 10-0, while at 5-1, Park slipped in to a three-way tie for second, as the Pirates' overall record fell to 12-7. Doherty did have two hits in the game, starting at first base before coming on to take the loss, while Park's first four hitters – Tim Schaareman, Austin Giannola, John Lozano Jr., and Rafael Torres-Castillo – produced one RBI each for Park.
Howser, the Cougars leadoff hitter, was 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and three runs, while Piper finished the day with a pair of runs batted in, as well, and a 2-for-5 day at the plate.
Park looked like it might move on as the league's only unbeaten early in the game, scoring three times in the third when Austyn Cochran came home on Schaareman's single, followed by run-scoring ground balls from Lozano and Torres to bring home Weston Jacobs and Giannola. The Cougars were able to get one back in the bottom of the inning, on Piper's triple to right field, bringing in Howser, and Columbia claimed a lead in the seventh with three runs, two off the bat of Howser, who later scored after his two-run double.
Park was able to get two of its first three batters on base in the ninth and Giannola drove in Jacobs with a single to right field, but with runners at second and third, Park was only able to muster a pair of fly balls on the infield, forcing Doherty to come on in the ninth after reliever Carlos Valencia gave up a leadoff single and hit the next batter to put two on with nobody out.
Columbia eventually loaded the bases before Doherty got a ground ball to Schaareman, who threw home, stopping the Cougars momentarily, but Piper came through on Columbia's next at bat.
Justin Eubanks made the start for the Pirates, going six full innings and part of a seventh with a strikeout, seven hits and three walks, while Valencia took the loss for the Pirates, falling to 1-1, and Columbia reliever Jeremy Rettig was the winning pitcher for the Cougar after six strong innings from starter Zach Maskill.
"It's a frustrating feeling to be up big, give up the lead, go behind and then come back with a chance to force extra innings on the road," said Park coach Cary Lundy. "This is one of those times you wish you had a second game to let go of the first game, but we'll need a short memory with Williams Baptist coming to our field. We had our chances today. You can't leave 10 on base and expect to win a conference game against a good team."
The Pirates meet Williams Baptist College for three at Comfort Field Friday and Saturday, with a doubleheader slated to begin the series Friday at noon. Saturday, the series concludes with a final game at noon, and all three games are scheduled to air on the Pirate Sports Network at www.parkathletics.tv. Broadcast coverage for the series could change if the Park University men's basketball team advances in the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. Check www.parkathletics.com for details.
Live stats for the series with Williams will be online at www.parkathletics.tv.