WHITTIER, Calif. – Despite a career night from Travis Kozak, the Ursinus College baseball team was denied its first win of the season as the last of five lead changes went Whittier's way in a 7-5 final.
Kozak finished 4-for-4, a career high for hits, and scored two runs for the Bears, who came back from two deficits but were unable to overcome a three-run seventh for the host Poets (8-8).
The Bears started knocking on the door in the top of the third, and an error blew it wide open. After freshman Tom Jacobs was hit by a pitch and Kozak singled to left, sophomore Dom Fiorentino put a bunt down the third-base line. The throw to first was wild, allowing the two lead runners to score and Fiorentino to ramble all the way down to third, where he came home on sophomore Alex Mumme's RBI infield hit to make it 3-1 Ursinus.
Junior starter Matt Bull, making his collegiate debut, nearly escaped a massive jam in the fourth, only for the Poets to put up a crooked number of their own. Whittier loaded the bases with nobody out, but Bull got the next two batters to pop up to first. But Andrew Lamar sent a two-run double down the left-field line, and Nick Krska followed with a go-ahead RBI single, although Kozak managed to throw out Lamar at the plate to end the inning and prevent further damage. The outfield assist was the third of Kozak's career.
Kozak helped the Bears answer right back, singling to center for his third hit of the night. Fiorentino dropped a base hit down the right-field line, and an error by the Whittier outfielder allowed Kozak to come home with the tying run. Fiorentino took advantage of more Poets miscues, going to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a passed ball to give Ursinus a 5-4 lead.
Bull breezed through the next two frames but ran into trouble in the seventh, when he walked the leadoff man and committed an error on a bunt by the next hitter. After a sac bunt and a walk loaded the bags, the Poets tied it with a base hit into left field.
Freshman Nolan Graber came on in relief of Bull, who had two unearned runs tacked on to his line when an error allowed the go-ahead run to score and set up a sacrifice fly that made it 7-5.
The Bears had one last chance in the ninth, when Gross and Jacobs singled back-to-back to put two on with one out. Kozak was retired on a sacrifice bunt, and Fiorentino bounced out to shortstop to end the game.
Kozak moved four hits away from 100 for his career for Ursinus. Fiorentino finished 1-for-4 with two runs scored.
Bull (0-1) was charged with seven runs – five earned – in 6.1 innings of work. He walked five and did not strike out a batter.
Whittier got strong performances from its bullpen, which struck out six and conceded only three hits in five shutout frames. Matthew Macey was 2-for-3 with two RBI, including the tying single in the seventh.
Jacobs showed off his arm again behind the plate, twice throwing out Dmitri Washington at second. The rookie has successfully gunned down three of four would-be base stealers in his first three games.
Ursinus takes a day off before challenging defending national champion Cal Lutheran on Thursday.