Sports

Eagles get back to basics, back in win column

The new haircuts didn't work.

The fundamentals did.

Winthrop broke a four-game losing streak on Sunday by blanking Kent State 5-0 in the final game of the Coca-Cola Classic. A day after seven players showed up at The Winthrop Ballpark with their hair trimmed into "March Mohawks" but still had to sit through a loss, classic small-ball technique and a gem from pitcher Billy Tinsley snapped the skid.

"We had a pretty rough stretch here," Tinsley said after improving to 2-0 by scattering five hits with no walks in 6 2-3 innings. "We've played some pretty good games against good teams.

"The problem comes when people start getting real down on themselves and just throw it in. But nobody did that."

Their offense had been shackled in all but two of their previous seven games -- coincidentally, those were the two they won -- so the Eagles (3-5) forced the issue on Sunday. Assistant head coach Mike McGuire, in charge of baserunning and hitting, signaled for two hit-and-runs, a double steal and a squeeze play, and every one came up golden.

"He called a great game today," coach Joe Hudak said. "Most of our guys aren't speed-burners, but they run decent. He did a great job today of making things happen."

Tinsley lasted into the seventh before Hudak signaled for closer Josh McDonald, who earned his first save with 2 1-3 innings of two-hit ball. The lanky senior ran into some trouble in the ninth, a couple of two-out ground balls finding holes, but retired Brett Weibley on a grounder to second and joined the party.

The relieved grins were wide enough to drive a truck through.

"We'd been on a skid there for a little bit," smiled captain Eddie Tisdale, who had two hits and an RBI and was one of the driving forces behind the "March Mohawks." "The haircuts were just kind of a way for us to just pick up everybody's spirits a bit. Some of us decided to go mullets."

Maybe it just took a day for the jinx to break, but something worked. Winthrop never got into the panic mode that was evident in some of its losses.

Tisdale drove in the first run after Aaron Bonomi slashed a single down the left-field line on McGuire's first hit-and-run. Tyler McBride ran from first to third and scored when Tisdale blooped a pitch into left.

Up 1-0 in the fifth, Bonomi on first, the Eagles benefited from a Kent State mistake. Tisdale lifted a short fly to left that Anthony Gallas gloved and dropped. McGuire immediately called for another hit-and-run, which scored Bonomi and moved Tisdale to third when Kevin Nolan slashed a drive through the second-base gap.

Tisdale scored on Billy Froehlich's sacrifice fly, making it 3-0.

Winthrop plated two more in the seventh after Tisdale singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Nolan walked and McGuire tried his luck with a double steal, each runner into the bag well before the throw.

Then pinch-hitter Bryan Bogue dropped a beautiful bunt to the left of the mound as Tisdale took off from third, scoring standing up while the ball was eaten and never thrown to first. The Eagles made it 5-0 when Tony Brunetti's groundout was deep enough to get Nolan home.

With the offense solved, Tinsley kept mowing down Kent State's lineup, finding a way past the Golden Flashes despite being a left-hander facing a predominantly right-handed lineup. He gave up two doubles and only allowed one runner to reach third base, picking up his team-leading second win.

"As a lefty, you never really want to see that many righties in the lineup," Tinsley said. "I really just tried to keep them off-balance, make them hit the ball."

McDonald finished it for the Eagles' first shutout in the past 25 games.

"Seems like there's a load lifted off, I think, for all of us," Hudak said. "The frustrating thing for us was we were playing so hard. It was good to see us get some hits today and make some things happen, and obviously, it was a win we needed. A lot."

Winthrop will take today off before hosting Wake Forest (4-4) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

• NOTE: No. 4 North Carolina won the tournament championship with a 4-0 record, beating St. John's for the second straight day. UNC went 4-0, St. John's went 2-2 and Winthrop and Kent State each went 1-3.

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