A trio of players making their home debuts for the USC Beaufort baseball team made sure the 2016 home opener was successful for the Sand Sharks, who beat Sun Conference rival Thomas 9-2 in the opener of a three-game series Friday at Richard Gray Sports Complex.
John Gora pitched eight strong innings to earn the win, Thomas Estopare went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs, and Max Balter went 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI and four runs scored to lead USCB to its fourth consecutive victory.
Gora (1-0) allowed just two unearned runs — both in the first inning — and seven hits, striking out two and walking one in his second start of the season. The senior left-hander was on the ropes early, as the Night Hawks plated a pair of unearned runs in the first and had the bases loaded with no outs in the second, but third baseman Brandon Joyce made a leaping grab of Jalbert Melo’s sharp line drive and dived to tag third and double off Yasiel Peguero to end the inning.
Gora again worked out of trouble in the third before retiring nine straight batters.
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The Sand Sharks are expected to start senior right-hander Jamie Strock in the opener Saturday and junior right-hander Julio De Pena in the finale.
The Sand Sharks (5-1, 1-0 TSC) answered the bell in the first with three straight hits to start the inning, including Estopare’s ringing RBI double off the wall in left, and tied it on Nick Payne’s sacrifice fly later in the inning. RBI singles from Balter and Estopare in the second gave USCB a 4-2 lead, and Matt Kianka’s RBI double to right in the fourth made it 5-2.
USCB tacked on two more in the seventh on an RBI triple from Estopare and Kal Davis’ sacrifice fly, and the same duo added to the lead in the eighth, when Estopare doubled home a run and Davis added an RBI single.
The series will conclude with a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Sand Sharks are expected to start senior right-hander Jamie Strock in the opener and junior right-hander Julio De Pena in the finale.
Who: Thomas University (DH)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Richard Gray Sports Complex, Hardeeville