STATESBORO, Ga. - Sophomore Steve Tkowski (Bourne, Mass.) hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to give the Holy Cross baseball team an early advantage, but Georgia Southern battled back with an eight-run fourth inning and went on to spoil the Crusaders season opener with a 19-7 loss at JI Clements Stadium. The Crusaders start the 2010 season with a record of 0-1 while the Eagles now stand at 2-4 overall. Tkowski finished the game with three RBI, one run and one walk.
Holy Cross scored three runs with two outs in the top of the first inning. After senior Matt Perry (Sudbury, Mass.) drew a walk, junior Eric Oxford (Danvers, Mass.) doubled to center field, scoring Perry. Tkowski would then homer to centerfield, scoring Oxford and giving the Crusaders an early 3-0 edge. The Eagles would answer with one run of their own in the bottom of the first inning on a single to center field.
The Crusaders would tack on two more runs in the second and third innings. In his first collegiate at-bat, freshman Alex Maldonado (Brooklyn, N.Y.) homered down the left field line, putting Holy Cross up 4-1 in the top of the second. Georgia Southern scored again in the bottom half of the inning, but the Crusaders tacked on one more run in the top of third inning, this time on a single up the middle by senior John Sills (Milton, Mass.). After Oxford walked and Tkowski hit by a pitch, Sills singled in his second at-bat of the game, scoring Oxford and getting his team ahead, 5-2.
After Holy Cross did not mark a run in the top half of the fourth inning, Georgia Southern's offense exploded for eight runs on eight hits in the bottom portion, forcing senior starter Matt Shapiro (Raynham, Mass.) out of the game. The Eagles collected two more runs in the fifth inning and five runs in the sixth inning to take a 17-5 lead after six innings of play.
The Crusaders managed an unanswered run in the seventh inning. After junior Brendan McCrea (Hicksville, N.Y.) led off with a single, fellow junior Jack Laurendeau (Sudbury, Mass.) walked, advancing McCrea. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and Perry followed with the second walk of the inning to load the bases. Tkowski was then walked, allowing McCrea to score and picking up his third RBI.
Holy Cross earned its seventh and final run in the top of the eighth inning as Maldonado scored his second run of the game on a wild pitch. After walking to start the inning, Maldonado advanced to second on a single by freshman Zach Burdeau (Andover, Mass.) and then continued to third on a fielder's choice. Georgia Southern's Tom Garner then threw a wild pitch, allowing Maldonado to cross home plate. The Eagles put together two additional runs in the bottom half of the eighth inning, scoring two runs off freshman Tom Marra (Sea Cliff, N.Y.) in his collegiate pitching debut. The Crusaders left one man on in the ninth inning, falling to Georgia Southern by the final 19-7 score.
Michael Hester picked up the win for Georgia Southern after striking out two batters and allowing no runs or hits in 1.2 innings of work, getting his first win of the season. Shapiro received the loss for the Crusaders, giving up six runs on seven hits while striking out three batters in 3.1 innings of work. He falls to a record of 0-1. In all, Holy Cross scored seven runs on eight hits while Georgia Southern collected 19 runs on 21 hits.
Holy Cross returns to action tomorrow as it plays in the second game of the three-game series against Georgia Southern. Game time is slated for 1:30 p.m. at JI Clements Field in Statesboro, Ga.