Lancers end season with loss to Charleston Southern

Published 6:32 am Saturday, May 22, 2021

Big South Pitcher of the Year candidate RJ Petit gave Charleston Southern six strong innings, and designated hitter Johnny Oliveira amassed five hits and five RBI to send the Buccaneers past Longwood 13-2 in the 2021 finale Friday, May 21, at Buddy Bolding Stadium.

Petit (6-0), the Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year two years running, added to his case for the Big South’s top pitching award by holding Longwood (17-32, 10-25 Big South) to two runs on five hits in his six-plus frames. He struck out four and did not allow a run after the first inning, allowing the Charleston Southern (18-26, 18-22 Big South) offense to give him a 4-2 lead just before his exit two batters into the seventh inning.

Oliveira contributed to that effort in a big way, going 5-for-5 with hits in all five plate appearances, including RBI knocks in his last four. All five of those hits were singles, and all five came with runners in scoring position as the sophomore outfielder raised his batting average from .288 to .311 to end the season.

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Pinch-hitter Christian Maggio and shortstop Reid Harwick also drove in two runs apiece as the Bucs’ offense warmed after the exit of Longwood starter Andrew Melnyk (2-4) in the sixth. The 6-6, 230-pound Melnyk went toe-to-toe with the 6-8, 300-pound Petit through the first half of the game before Charleston Southern knocked him out of the game with two outs in the sixth.

Melnyk, who entered his final appearance with a 2-0 record and a 3.05 ERA in his past three starts, gave up just one run through his first five frames but saw his final line rise to four runs and seven hits through 5.2 innings after Charleston Southern’s go-ahead sixth inning.

That sixth inning turned the tide in the Buccaneers’ favor for good, as a leadoff double by leadoff man Tyrell Brewer jump-started a three-run rally. Oliveira got the scoring started with a game-tying RBI single that ended the day for Melnyk, and Harwick followed with a two-run single off of reliever Dominick D’Ercole that gave Charleston Southern a 4-2 lead.

The RBI knock from Harwick was one of only two hits D’Ercole allowed, but he was also knocked out of the game early after taking a line drive to his upper body in the seventh inning. Sophomore Michael Tolson took over and ended that inning, but the Buccaneers rode that momentum to put the game away with nine runs in the top of the eighth.

Longwood’s two runs came in the first inning, the first of which was on a bases-loaded RBI fielder’s choice from shortstop Ricky Jimenez and the second off a perfectly executed double steal by Jimenez and Eliot Dix.

The loss signals the end of the 2021 season for the Lancers, who before Friday’s game honored their seven-man senior class of Nate Blakeney, Nathaniel Brezner-Mendoza, Andrew Gorham, Colton Hutt, Tyler Mahone, Matt Shobe and Jack Schnell.