03/25/11 — Nichols' RBI double sparks Gators' fifth-inning surge

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Nichols' RBI double sparks Gators' fifth-inning surge

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 25, 2011 1:47 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Spring Creek allowed the big inning.

Princeton returned the favor.

Chris Nichols' two-RBI double fueled a fifth-inning uprising, and the Gators turned back the Dawgs, 7-4, in the Carolina 1-A Conference baseball opener for both teams Thursday afternoon.

Down 2-0 after three innings, Princeton (3-5 overall, 0-1 CC) juiced the bases in the fourth inning. Austin Hinton singled and moved into scoring position on Blake Schultze's double to center field.

Matt Stigile drew a walk to load the sacks.

Spring Creek's coaches reminded their infielders to work the runners, especially Schultze, who wandered several feet off second base. Schultze eventually coaxed pitcher Corey Howell into an errant throw, and the miscue started a four-run surge.

Anthony Martin plated Schultze with a ground-rule double. Stigile and Martin scored on Drew McCoy's two-RBI single to cap the scoring.

The Gators (5-6, 1-0) came back one inning later.

Ricky Brayboy's one-out single set the table for Nichols, who slapped a bases-clearing, first-pitch breaking ball down the right-field line. Nichols advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Wyatt Janning's RBI groundout.

An infield error allowed Will Janning to score for the 6-4 lead.

"I thought 'Mo' was in our dugout and he went over there to the third-base line," said Dawgs head coach Bruce Proctor of the momentum-swinging inning. "You have to give them a lot of credit, they did a good job. I thought our kids played hard and that's all you can ask them to do. We've got to tip our cap to Spring Creek and move on to the next conference game."

Four of Spring Creek's seven runs came via a walk or hit batsman. The Gators mustered just five hits against Hinton, who took the mound loss, and reliever Forrest Stewart.

"They helped us out," said Gators head coach Heath Whitfield. "But we preach patience up there (at the plate), and we did a good job of that. We made their pitchers throw strikes, and did a good job of getting on base.

"We really didn't chase a lot of bad pitches. Finally, we came through when we needed to."

Spring Creek added a single run in the sixth.

Duane Gurganus claimed the pitching win in relief of Howell. The senior right-hander limited the Dawgs to three hits and struck out two in 3 1/3 innings of work. Howell permitted four runs (three earned) on seven hits and fanned three Princeton batters.