Wilkinson comes through on Senior Day for Longwood baseball

Published 11:31 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

Longwood baseball had outhit Winthrop all day, but it needed one more. On Senior Day, Dylan Wilkinson came through.

With the score knotted at 1-1, the redshirt-junior cranked a single up the middle, and Ethan Barnes raced home for a 2-1 walk-off win as Longwood (23-30, 11-15 Big South) evened the series against Winthrop (26-26, 14-12 Big South).

How it happened

For a second straight day, the Lancers were locked in a pitcher’s duel with Winthrop. Drayven Kowalski tied a career high with three hits to lead a Longwood offense that racked up 12 base knocks, but Winthrop managed to avoid major damage all throughout the night.

Email newsletter signup

However, Longwood’s pitching staff was better. The Lancers only gave up four hits, a season low, and they retired nine straight to close the game.

Outside of McKinley Erves, who had three hits, the other eight batters in Winthrop’s order combined for one hit against the Longwood combination of Guillermo Garcia, Jr., Dominick D’ErcoleSean Gibbons and Ried Dittner. The four hits were a season-low.

Garcia, the reigning Big South Pitcher of the Week, tossed five strong innings in his second straight conference start. The righthander struck out four while giving up one run on an Erves solo homer, and Garcia only gave up two hits and three walks.

The Lancer bullpen picked up right where he left off. Dominick D’Ercole ripped off 3.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts before giving way to Sean Gibbons and Ried Dittner, who each fanned the lone batters they faced in the ninth.

Longwood took an early lead on an RBI double by Luis DeLeon in the third inning, but after Erves evened the score in the fourth, scoring dried up.

Finally, in the ninth, Kowalski led off with a single to left field for his third hit of the night. Barnes came on to run for him and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Keondre Shelton. Wilkinson then smoked a ball up the middle to end the game.

Dittner (1-0) earned the win for Longwood, and Aaron White (1-3) took the loss on the mound for Winthrop. White struck out one while giving up one run on two hits in 2.1 innings of relief work.

What they said about Longwood baseball

“I’m extremely proud. I told the guys at the end of the game that it’s been 22 months since I took over, and this is probably one of my most memorable and favorite wins,” said Longwood Head Coach Chad Oxendine. “We had an opportunity last night, and we didn’t make the tournament this year, and we had two games left coming into today that we could have hung them up and said, ‘The season’s over. We don’t have anything to play for other than pride for Longwood and our program.’ So I was proud of how we came to compete in a tough game like that. Our guys had so much energy and focus, and we were fortunate to come out on top in a really good game.”

“I told Drayven, I wish I would have known that he would play like this on senior day, and we would have had senior day his whole career,” Oxendine said with a laugh while talking about his catcher’s career day. “He had three hits tonight and came up with a big hit in the bottom of the ninth…Honestly, three guys off the bench, it’s kind of crazy. We had three guys off the bench with Barnes to pinch run, Shelton to get the sac bunt down and then Wilk.”

“I want to talk about Dylan,” Oxendine added about Wilkinson. “Last night, he had three K’s. He walked out of the locker room late last night, as we all do, like, ‘Man, I had a tough game, I hate this game,’ and that’s the way baseball is. And that’s why I feel like it is the best sport. You can go three K’s one day and then come back the next day and get the game winner. It’s a beautiful game, but it’s cruel. Kudos to Wilk for keeping his head up after a tough game yesterday and then coming back with a big hit.”

“I think it shows growth in our program,” Oxendine said when asked about what it means to have players off the bench execute in key moments. “It shows us in our clubhouse that we’re getting better. I don’t think anyone could deny that growth from where we were opening day—heck, even against Gardner-Webb when we got swept and did not play well—how we’ve played the last two or three weekends. One of our biggest goals was these last three weekends to be trending up. Last year on these three weekends, we went 1-8, and we missed the tournament. This year, we wanted to be trending upward, and I feel like we are. It means a lot to our culture and what we’re trying to build, that we’re continuing to trend upward and continuing to fight. We’re continuing to get better, and we hope it leads to next year.”

“Garcia just keeps getting better and better,” Oxendine said when talking about the performance the reliever-turned-starter late in the season. “I think he’s comfortable now. I think he realized that he belongs here. I think it took him some time where he was trying to prove himself, and he’s done that. He doesn’t have to prove anything else anymore. He belongs here.”

“Dom was being Dom,” Oxendine said about his bullpen. “He’s steady eddy. He wants the ball, and you can never tell if he’s up or down. He’s always calm, cool and collected. He held us in there. Then the last two guys, they executed. They understand their roles. Sean Gibbons knew he had to get the lefty out, and he did. Ried came in and knew he had to get the righty out, and he did. They gave us a shot to stay in the game and then do what we did in the ninth.”

Some additional notes

Longwood baseball has now surpassed last season’s conference win total with 11 Big South wins. Last season, the team won 10 Big South games.

Kowalski was one of four Lancers with a multi-hit game. Justin LooneyEliot Dix and Gregory Ryan, Jr. each had two base hits as well.

The Lancers are now 17-3 when outhitting their opposition.

The Longwood pitching staff combined for 10 strikeouts, with both Garcia and D’Ercole having four apiece.

It was the Longwood baseball team’s first walk-off win of the season.

Up next for Longwood baseball

Longwood plays Winthrop for the final game of the regular season on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Ethan Walker is slated to start for Longwood on the mound, and Winthrop is TBA. The game will be aired on ESPN+.