CLEVELAND, Miss. (WCBI/Delta State Athletics) – Michael Manley (2-0), the reigning Gulf South Conference Pitcher of the Week, made a case for back-to-back honors after striking out a career-high 11 to propel the top-ranked Delta State University baseball team to a 5-1 victory over Florida Southern College. Sunday’s victory marked the third consecutive sweep for the Statesmen this season and moved DSU to 10-0 on the year, while FSC slipped to 5-10.
In the top of the first inning, the Mocs tested Statesmen starter Michael Manley early. Connor Szczerba reached on an error by third baseman Jami Rachal and Kyle Gibbs singled to right with no one out. Manley struck out the next three batters in order to retire the side and end the threat.
The Statesmen carried Manley’s momentum to the plate in the bottom of the inning, scoring three runs off FSC starter Alex Norris. Michael Vinson came through with an RBI double to right-center followed by a two-RBI single to left by Brent Langston.
Delta State touched up Norris for two more runs in the bottom of the second to take a 5-0 lead. Rachal leadoff the inning with a walk followed by a Chovanec single to left. Tyler Aldridge came through with an RBI single to center scoring Rachal, but an error fielding the ball by FSC’s J.J. Downum allowed Chovanec to come around to score from second.
After keeping the Mocs off the bases and the scoreboard for four innings, FSC finally scratched the board with a run in the top of the fifth, as Christian Magno came in to score on interference by Statesmen catcher Carlos Leal. Magno, Brad Carlton and Downum came through with three-straight singles to jumpstart the Mocs. Magno scored on a fielder’s choice by Szczerba and was granted the run as Leal impaired his ability to cross the plate.
FSC’s run in the top of the fifth ended Manley’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at 14 to start the season.
Neither team managed to score in the sixth or seventh, but FSC threatened again in the top of the eighth. Szczerba was hit by a pitch and Keith Curcio drew a two-out walk to force Manley from the mound. DSU brought in Taylor Stark from the bullpen and the junior quickly coaxed a groundout by Kyle Jackson to end the Mocs hopes of a run in the frame.
Vinson led off the bottom of the eighth inning for the Statesmen off reliever Nate Carter. The DSU leftfielder was lifted for Morris Grant, who was bunted over to third by Langston. FSC leftfielder Dominic Brugnoni made a spectacular play to end the threat, as the strong-armed outfielder hauled in Leal’s flyout and threw out Grant at home on the tag-up.
In the top of the ninth, Stark retired the side with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to seal the 5-1 win for DSU and in the process recorded his first career save for the Statesmen.
Manley (2-0) claimed his second-straight victory for the Statesmen. The junior from Raymond, Miss., gave up a lone run on five hits with a career-high 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work. Stark worked 1.1 innings of relief with two strikeouts.
Aldridge, who went 2-for-3, and Langston led the Statesmen with two RBIs each. Chovanec and Vinson also finished the game with two hits.
Norris (0-2) was saddled with the loss for the Mocs after working 2.0 innings and allowing five runs, four earned, on four hits with three walks. Burnham proved to be effective in relief, holding the Statesmen at bay for five innings allowing three hits with a pair of strikeouts. Carter closed out the game for the Mocs surrendering one hit.
The Statesmen hit the road for midweek games at UA-Monticello and Harding on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home next Saturday to host No. 6 West Florida for the Gulf South Conference opener at Ferriss Field.