Sanchez, Palencia Provide Walk-Offs in Sweep of Marlins

Photo courtesy of Dave Hilbert / D3Photography
Photo courtesy of Dave Hilbert / D3Photography

Rocky Mount, N.C. - Seniors Tony Sanchez and Luis Palencia each recorded walk-off hits on Saturday afternoon to lead their Bishop baseball team to a season-opening sweep of Virginia Wesleyan College at Bauer Field. Sanchez blasted a walk-off grand slam to seal an 8-4 win in the opener, while Palencia delivered a two-out bunt single to secure a 6-5 victory in game two.

Sophomore hurler Nate Gardner got the call in the opener and tossed a solid 5.1 innings, allowing just one unearned run on four hits with three strikeouts. He exited the game down 1-0 in the sixth, but freshman Brad Pennington drove home Wesleyan's first run of the season with a single to center that knotted the score.

Each team plated a pair of runs in the seventh, and the Marlins pulled ahead for a third time, 4-3, with an unearned run in the eighth. Sophomore Brandon Wheat led off the ninth with a walk and moved to second on a sac-bunt by Caleb Narron. The ensuing strikeout saw the Bishops down to their final out, but freshman Nick Beaver delivered his first collegiate hit -- a game-tying RBI-single to right that forced extras.

Freshman Michael Smith (1-0) walked the first batter he faced in the 10th but bounced back to retire the next three Marlin batters, setting the stage for Sanchez's heroics. Pennington got things started with a double down the right field line, and after an intentional walk to sophomore Trey Croom, a fielder's choice saw NCWC load the bases with no outs. Sanchez then deposited his first homer of the season to the right of the new John Alden scoreboard to ignite a Bishop celebration at homeplate.

In game two, VWC (0-2) wasted no time getting on the board as Justin Erby blasted the first pitch of the game off the Bauer Field sign in left. The Marlins added a second run in the opening frame for a quick 2-0 lead, forcing Bishop head coach Charlie Long to go to his pen early. Thankfully, Long got just what he needed in relief as Jackson Moseley, Stephen Umphlett, Connor Stratton, Galen Beaver, Noah Shrock, and Pennington combined to toss 7.2 innings, scattering six hits and allowing just three runs. 

Tied 3-3 after three complete, NCWC took its first lead in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI-groundout by Logan Andrews that plated Narron. VWC tied it in the fifth and took an eventual 5-4 lead in the eighth. The Bishops, however, again rallied in their final at-bat. A Sanchez single to lead off the frame was followed by a Wheat bunt single. Will Graves moved the runners to second and third with a sac-bunt, and Beaver knotted the score with a grounder to short.  With two outs, Palencia then laid a perfect bunt down the third base line to score Wheat and trigger the second walk-off celebration of the day.

Pennington (1-0) picked up the victory in relief. He was also one of five Bishops to tally two hits on the day.

Wesleyan (2-0) returns to action on Tuesday when the Bishops host DII Barton College at Bauer Field. First pitch is slated for 2:00pm.