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Florence hits grand slam as Eagles roll past Ecclesia 18-6 in series opener

A.J. Florence went 4-for-5 with a grand slam and six RBIs in the win over Ecclesia.
A.J. Florence went 4-for-5 with a grand slam and six RBIs in the win over Ecclesia.

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 11, 2014) – On a night when plenty of Oklahoma Christian Eagles had good offensive outings, A.J. Florence rose to the top of that list with a memorable performance.

Florence went 4-for-5 with a grand slam, a triple, two runs scored and six RBIs as OC rolled to an 18-6 win over Ecclesia (Ark.) on Friday at Dobson Field in a rematch of last year’s National Christian College Athletic Association Central Region title game, also won by the Eagles.

Every OC starter either had at least one hit or reached base. Besides Florence, Zac Cobble went 1-for-2 but reached base five times (two walks, two hit-by-pitches) and Caden Cleveland went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a walk, two runs scored and four RBIs.

Off the bench, freshman Kolton Brown smacked his first collegiate home run, a two-run shot in the seventh inning after Ecclesia (23-18) had closed a 13-0 deficit to 13-6.

The 18 runs were the most scored in a game by the Eagles since an 18-17 win over Wayland Baptist (Texas) on March 3, 2012.

“I was really pleased with the way we swung the bats today,” OC coach Lonny Cobble said. “We had 18 hits and scored 18 runs. I thought our guys were really patient at the plate and got some good hitting counts and swung the bats well tonight.”

Florence led off with a triple and scored for OC (22-12) in the first inning. The Eagles batted around in the third against Ecclesia starter Eckersley Villasmil, with Cleveland, Robert Rosser and Garrett Stephenson delivering RBI hits as OC scored four runs.

OC sent 12 men to the plate in the fourth and scored eight runs on just three hits, highlighted by Florence’s no-doubt, two-out grand slam over the left-field wall off Villasmil. Cleveland capped the outburst with a two-run double to make it 13-0.

The Royals scored three runs off OC starter Brandon Pierce (7-2) in the fifth, but Pierce still finished the game with seven strikeouts.

Ecclesia pulled within 13-6 in the seventh as OC reliever Daniel Sawyer ran into trouble, but Ryan Nash came in and coaxed a double-play grounder from Villasmil and struck out Guy Halbert to shut down the Royals’ rally.

The Eagles scored four times in the bottom of the seventh and once more in the eighth.

“I thought we had a little letdown pitching-wise,” Cobble said. “I just think it was a mental letdown. We didn’t come out focused one inning and let them score a couple of runs, but then we refocused. Nash came in and did a good job getting the double-play ball. Our defense played solid all night.”

The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at noon.