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Baseball splits series in Birmingham

The baseball team went 2-2 in their opening four games against the University of Alabama at Birmingham this weekend in a series that saw surprisingly good early-season performances from several players. Brown lost the opener 4-1 on Friday, and then got its first win of the season, 7-3, on Saturday, before blowing a three-run lead in a 9-6 loss later that day. On Sunday, the Bears closed out the series with an 8-5 win to even their record.

In Friday's game, the Bears got a quality start from Josh Feit '11, who was making his collegiate debut. Feit pitched five innings of shutout ball, and was pulled after throwing 101 pitches.

Second baseman Ryan Zrenda '11 scored Brown's only run of the game in the third inning, when he came home from third on a grounder to the right side off the bat of first baseman J.J. Eno '08. In the bottom of the third, Feit walked three batters to load the bases, but got a ground ball with two outs to protect the lead.

In the fifth, Brown missed an opportunity to extend its lead, when center fielder Steve Daniels '09 grounded out with runners on second and third to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Conor Burke '11 came out of the bullpen for his collegiate debut and struggled from the outset, walking the first three batters he faced. Anthony Vita '08 replaced Burke, and held the Blazers to only one run, on a sacrifice fly.

In the eighth inning, with Vita still on the mound, UAB scored three runs, with the help of two throwing errors by tri-captain third baseman Robert Papenhause '09, and took the first game, 4-1.

In their next game, the Bears got another strong push from Alex Silverman '08, who allowed three runs, two of them earned, over seven innings.

Bruno again got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead in the first, but Silverman surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning. The Bears regained the lead with a two-run third inning and then scored three runs in the fourth, when UAB walked in a run and right fielder Nick Punal '10 singled home two more, giving Brown a 6-2 lead.

The Bears added another run in the sixth, while the Blazers managed just one more run, giving Brown a 7-3 win.

On Saturday night, Will Weidig '10 struggled in his first start of the season, giving up six runs in seven innings in a 9-6 loss for Brown.

The Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning behind designated hitter Conor Reardon '08, who drove in the first run with an RBI double and later came around to score. Reardon went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in the game and had a breakout weekend, going 5-for-13 with three RBIs, three doubles and five runs scored. Reardon's performance was especially impressive since he has missed the past two seasons due to injury.

"I was definitely surprised," Papenhause said. "I had seen him play in the fall, and he's a great natural hitter, with a lot of talent at the plate, but he definitely exceeded what I thought he could do."

In the second inning, shortstop Matt Nuzzo '09 singled home another run, but in the bottom of the inning Brown's lead began to erode. Weidig gave up a single and two walks to load the bases with nobody out, and UAB cut the lead to 3-2 with a fielder's choice and a bunt single.

Weidig was perfect over the next three innings, and RBI doubles by Reardon and tri-captain left fielder Ryan Murphy '08 increased the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth.

In the bottom of the sixth, though, the Blazers struck for four runs to take a 6-5 lead, and the Bears left two runners on base in the top of the seventh.

The bullpen surrendered three more runs to UAB in the bottom of the eighth, but the Bears looked poised for a comeback. Bruno cut the lead to 9-6 and had runners on first and second with only one out. But consecutive fly ball outs stranded the runners, dropping Brown's record to 1-2.

"We thought we could have played better," Papenhause said. "We had that game in our hands, and we should have been able to win it."

On Sunday, another freshman, Matthew Kimball '11, took the mound for Brown. Kimball turned in a strong performance, allowing just one run in five innings, while four Bears had multi-hit games en route to an 8-5 victory.

The Bears took a 3-0 lead in the second inning, when Papenhause scored on a fielder's choice and catcher Matt Colantonio '11 had a two-run single. Colantonio reached base four times in five plate appearances, with two singles and a pair of walks.

The Blazers picked up a run in the bottom of the second, and neither team scored again until the bottom of the seventh, when UAB roughed up Matt Boylan '10 for three runs on four hits to take a 4-3 lead.

But the Bears came roaring back in the top of the eighth. First, Punal drove home Eno on a sacrifice fly to tie the game, and later in the inning, Nuzzo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give Brown a 5-4 lead. Papenhause delivered a sacrifice fly to give the Bears an insurance run, and a throwing error on Zrenda's ground ball gave them two more runs.

Pitchers Vita and tri-captain Rob Hallberg '08 protected the lead, as the Blazers managed one run in the ninth but no more.

For the most part, the team was happy with its performance this weekend.

"I thought we did really well for the first series of the season," Papenhause said. "I've been here three years, and this was the best we've ever played on the first weekend in all my time here." Bruno started last year 1-8, so the two wins on the first weekend of the season are already an improvement for a team that won the Ivy League title last season.

At the end of this week, Brown will travel back down south to Gainesville, Fla., for a three-game series against the University of Florida.



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