ALBION, Mich. – Ben Crawford sent a full count pitch under a diving attempt by the first baseman to score Justin Dennis in the eighth inning to lift Albion College to a 3-2 victory over Bluffton University in its home opener at Frank Joranko Field Tuesday afternoon.
Crawford's hit lifted Albion to its fourth straight win. The Britons will take a 6-2 record into their Thursday non-league date at Ohio Northern University. Albion begins a four-game series against six-time defending Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion Adrian College with a home doubleheader at 1 o'clock Saturday.
"We've been putting ourselves in position to win ballgames," Head Coach Scott Carden said. "I thought our pitching staff threw really well and our defense did a nice job all day long."
Crawford hit a one-out double in the first. He advanced to third when Kyle Kowal followed by a single. Carden called for a double steal and Crawford scored on a throwing error by the Bluffton shortstop. Kowal crossed the plate when Michael Fischbach lifted a sacrifice fly to right field.
The Albion bats were mostly silent from the second through the seventh. Bluffton pitchers Corey Johnson and Taylor Gambrell combined to retire 13 batters in a row until Shane Lindemann laced a one-out single in the sixth.
"We need to swing it better," Carden said. "I think we got complacent. We weren't in attack mode. We have to attack when we get pitches in the zone."
Albion picked up three of its seven hits in the eighth inning. Dennis, who entered the game at second base in the sixth, started the rally with a single. He moved into scoring position when Chase Carpenter grounded to the first baseman and to third on Lindemann's single.
Dennis' run lifted Zach Maresh (2-0) to the victory. He allowed a single and a walk Bluffton's half of the eighth, but he was able to work out of the jam without allowing a run.
Gunnar Owens allowed a leadoff walk and a one-out single in the ninth, but he got a ground ball to shortstop for a double play to end the game. It was Owens' fourth save of the season.
"I was proud of the way Gunnar performed in a pressure situation," Carden said.
The four pitchers Albion rolled out – Nate Brubaker started and Matt Temrowski logged five innings in relief – worked with traffic on the base paths all afternoon. Bluffton stranded 14 runners and grounded into three double plays.