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Home opener

For the Bowling Green baseball team, the home opener was starting to resemble a space shuttle launch.

The first game at the remodeled Steller Field was delayed nearly two weeks by weather until, finally, nature cooperated yesterday and the skies parted long enough for BG to defeat Cleveland State 5-3.

The weather was far from perfect, however. A frigid wind blew from left field to right, carrying snow flurries with it. The game almost wound up being a casualty to mechanical failure as the Vikings’ (3-16) bus broke down on the turnpike, but they ultimately made it to BG and the game’s start was delayed an hour.

The Falcons’ (8-13) pitching schedule was a merry-go-round, typical of a non-conference game prior to a weekend conference series. Matt Hundley started and went two scoreless innings, walking two and striking out two. Six pitchers each had short stints afterward.

BG struck quickly off Cleveland State starter Matt Kaltenbach. In the bottom of the first inning, Kelly Hunt hit an opposite field two-run homer to put BG on top 2-0.

“I thought he hit it well,” said BG coach Danny Schmitz. “Kelly’s a big, strong guy with power to all fields.”

BG tacked on another run in the bottom of the second when outfielder Jeff Warnock made a heads-up base-running move, scooting home on a wild pitch that didn?t go more than five feet from home plate to make it 3-0.

Warnock had the only multiple-hit day for the Falcons, finishing 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

“I felt like we played well enough to win,” Warnock said. “Sometimes, we get leads but we don?t have that instinct to just bury teams.”

The Falcons finished off their scoring in the third when Kevin Longstreth doubled home two runs to make it 5-0.

Cleveland State, led by right fielder Brook Richards, started to chip away at the lead in the next half-inning as he drove in right fielder Brian Beaumier with a sacrifice fly to get on the scoreboard.

In the top of the seventh, Richards knocked a two-run homer out to dead center to pull Cleveland State to within two at 5-3. Richards finished the day 1-for-2 with three RBIs.

The pitchers that relieved Hundley were decent to excellent. Kyle Knoblauch pitched a scoreless third giving up a hit. Tom Oestrike pitched the third and fourth. He struggled at first, but didn?t break, giving up a run on two hits, walking two and striking out two.

Burke Badenhop had the best single inning of the day in the sixth, striking out the side in order, twice looking, once swinging.

“If I was a pitcher today, I’d want to watch Burke Badenhop,” Schmitz said. “He made his purpose pitches and put people away.”

Keith Williams, Ryan Lindquist and Neil Schmitz each pitched one inning to finish the game. Neil Schmitz earned his third save of the season, pitching a perfect ninth.

Schmitz has won the closer”s role for the time being, but BG pitching coach Tod Brown said that won’t be the limit of his role.

“There are just not enough save situations so far,” he said. “He is too good a pitcher to not be pitching a lot for us.”

Outfield shuffle

The outfield was re-arranged yesterday because of an injury to center fielder David Barkholz, who sprained his right (non-throwing) shoulder slamming into an outfield wall last week. With Barkholz out, Len Elias shifted from right to center and Tim Newell moved from behind the plate to right. Barkholz’s status is still unknown for this Friday’s series opener against Ohio.

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