Playing with a Golden State of Mind


Connor Creedon, News and Features Editor

Piedmont University’s baseball traveled to the Golden State of California to face off in a three-game series against the 20th ranked California Lutheran University on Feb. 9-11. This marks the Lions’ first trip out to the west coast to compete, they walked away with two wins and a loss, defining the trip as an overall success.

Piedmont’s baseball squad touched down in Thousand Oaks, California, to compete in the highly anticipated season opener against a team they were beaten by last season when the two forces met in Demorest, Georgia, during the 2022 season.

The first game started out hot for the Lions, with a hit from junior outfielder Trace Cate which helped to walk in fellow outfielder Cole Ellis. 2022 Golden Glove winner Carter Ballstadt drove in the first run for the team on the season, with more to come in later innings from Kyle Carlson and Kolton Hicks. Pitchers Bodie Eilertson and Braden Simms got the job done as well, even delivering a 1-2-3 inning in the first and multiple strikeouts throughout the first matchup.

The Lions won their season opener 8-4, but California Lutheran came back for a fight the next day, as they won the second matchup 7-6 in 11 innings. Piedmont’s offense put up four big runs in the seventh inning to remain competitive, but the entire game was back and forth between teams as Cal. Lutheran continued to answer back with runs of their own.

More heavy hitting from sophomore infielder Kyle Carlson, who got the Lions on the board first with a home run in the third and final matchup of the weekend. Piedmont gained a 4-0 lead before the Kingsmen responded with their own solo home run. The Lions fought back to give themselves an 8-1 lead in the third inning, highlighting the explosive nature of the team’s offense.

“Our offensive was very good over the weekend, especially in the third game,” said James Whitmer, a senior mass communications major and infielder. “It was great to see this consistency in our hitting so early in the season.”

California Luthern didn’t go down without a fight, fighting back with six runs of their own, tightening the game with an 8-6 score after the fifth inning.

Ultimately, the continued performance from Ballstadt, Ellis, Cate and catcher Tyler Nelson was too much for the Kingsmen to handle, as the game concluded with the Lions on top 12-9, winning the series overall with a 2-1 record.

Pitching and stout defense proved to be in deciding the third game, as junior Aidan Cooney earned a win for Piedmont after pitching three innings, with fellow junior pitcher Justin Manus picking up the save to close out the game.

Such a performance over an entire weekend series will leave the coaching staff with a smile on their face. “I was really proud of our resilience and how we stayed together despite facing some adversity in the series,” said Piedmont head coach Justin Scali. “Winning two games against a top 25 program at their place is a great way to start the year.”

The Lions also gained more out of the trip than just a solid start to the 2023 season. The team made stops at some of Southern California’s most famous sports venues, including the Rose Bowl Stadium and Dodger Stadium, home of the MLB’s own Los Angeles Dodgers.

“The scenery was awesome, and experiencing such a nice professional facility felt like a dream,” said Whitmer.

Now back in Demorest, Piedmont University’s baseball program looks to continue its win streak, with home games against the University of La Verne, University of Lynchburg and Wilmington College on Feb. 17, 18 and 19, respectively.

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