Alison Smalling/ERAU Athletics
Kenny Burkhead tossed seven innings of one-run baseball while Kyle Zirbes came through withn a clutch, three-run double to help propel the 11th-ranked Embry-Riddle Eagles to their first win of the 2015 season, 5-1 over visiting Reinhardt on Saturday afternoon. ERAU (1-1) took an early lead thanks to a Tobias Moreno triple in the third and Burkhead kept the Reinhardt (3-1) bats at bay for most of the day as the Blue and Gold set up a true rubber match for Sunday’s series finale, slated for a 1 p.m. start at Sliwa Stadium.
Burkhead, making his first start in a Eagle uniform, worked around a jam in the first, getting a ground ball double play with runners at first and second to give the home team some momentum heading into the bottom of the first.
Bobby Gazzola did much of the same for Reinhardt in the home half of the first, inducing two ground balls to end the threat after Jake Cavender laced a one-out single up the middle.
Dalton Hughes cut down Matt Trawick at second as the courtesy runner tried to steal the base in the second inning, but ERAU couldn’t do much on offense against Gazzola until the third.
After Hughes singled to right to begin the frame, Moreno ripped a triple to left center, scoring Hughes’ courtesy runner Kyle Buchanan all the way from first as the Eagles enjoyed their first lead of the season. Moreno touched home two batters later when a fielding error allowed Joshua Garcia to reach safely as Embry-Riddle went up 2-0.
Burkhead kept the momentum on the hosts side with a 1-2-3 frame in the fourth, and despite two runners reaching base in the fifth, the junior from Deltona, Fla. was able to escape the jam with yet another ground ball.
The visitors finally got to Burkhead in the sixth when Matt Jackson brought in a run with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 2-1, but the Eagle right-handed kept the Eagles in front by getting pinch hitter Jimmy Kelley to ground out weakly back to the mound.
ERAU chased Gazzola from the game in the last of the sixth after Enderson Velasquez and Liam Goodall singled, followed by an A.J. Mazzurco walk to set up a bases-loaded situation for Zirbes. Zirbes worked the count to 2-1 before collecting his first hit as an Eagle, a double down the right field line that cleared the bases and pushed the ERAU lead to 5-1.
Burkhead worked a perfect seventh before Clayton Wagner, making his second appearance in as many days, did the same in the eighth.
Reinhardt threatened in the ninth after Wagner walked the leadoff batter and hit the next one, but Zac Grotz came in for the first time in 2015, getting a double play and stirke out to end the game and earn his first save as an Eagle.
Burkhead (1-0) scattered five hits with four strikeouts and two walks to earn the win. Seven different Eagles recorded a hit, led by a pair of base knocks from Velasquez and three RBIs from Zirbes.