DURHAM, N.C. – Three runs throughout the sixth and seventh innings along with seven shutout innings from Bill Maier helped the Iona College baseball team pick up a season-opening 3-1 victory at North Carolina Central earlier this evening.
Matt Byrne led off the sixth inning with a hit-by-pitch and followed with a steal of second and a wild pitch to advance to third. Two batters later, Niko Switalla singled through the right side to put the Gaels (1-0) ahead 1-0. Switalla later added a needed run to ensure 2-0 margin by scoring on an Alex Beckett single up the middle.
In the next inning, Switalla picked up his second RBI of the game with another single on the right side to plate Fran Kinsey on an unearned run. The right fielder led off the inning, reaching on a shortstop error before advancing to third on a Dion Austrie single.
The run support was more than Maier needed as the senior scattered four hits throughout seven shutout innings that included two strikeouts. Maier kept the hitters on the ground, forcing nine groundouts.
Jared Finkel came on to earn the save with two innings of work, surrendering one run on a groundout in the bottom of the ninth. Finkel completed the six-out save with a groundout to first in the next at-bat.
Breen and Switalla led the Maroon & Gold with a pair of hits to make up four of the team’s nine. North Carolina Central (2-3) was limited to five hits while starter Devin Sweet picked up the setback despite six innings of work with eight strikeouts and just one earned run among two allowed.
The two programs return to the diamond at the Durham Athletic Park tomorrow afternoon for game two of the three-game series at 1:00 pm.
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