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Spartans lose 5-0 lead, fall in World Series opener

– It took just one swing for Bryton Guckenberg to crush the baseball and with it Manchester University’s dreams of an opening-game win in the NCAA Division III World Series on Friday night at Fox Cities Stadium.

The Spartans saw a 5-0 eighth-inning lead fade before Guckenberg finished a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point rally with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning for a 6-5 win. Manchester (39-6-1) now drops to the elimination bracket and will play at 2:15 p.m. today against Webster University (Mo.) (36-11), which lost 14-8 to Kean University (N.J.) on Friday night.

“We were just trying to get outs, since you knew one run wasn’t going to hurt you and two runs weren’t going to hurt you,” said Manchester pitcher Justin Scott, who pitched seven scoreless innings before giving up two runs in the bottom of the eighth.

The Spartans took a 3-0 lead in the first two innings, then went up 4-0 on Kyle Norris’ solo homer – just his second of the season – to lead off the sixth. Manchester then pushed across its fifth run in the eighth on Austin Rieke’s RBI single.

As the Spartans have done throughout the year, they turned to senior Bryce Murphy to finish the game. Murphy has 13 saves this season but gave up two run-scoring hits in the eighth before wriggling out of the jam with a 5-3 Spartans lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, Sean Gerber hit an RBI triple and Jimmy Coady added a sacrifice fly as the Pointers (40-9) pulled even. After the Spartans failed to score on a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the 10th, Guckenberg went deep to left with two outs for the win.

“I was waiting for the fastball, and he gave it to me down the middle,” Guckenberg said. “I just wanted to put a good swing on it, and as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to be a home run.”

Murphy (6-2) took the loss for the Spartans, who ha-d their 16-game winning streak snapped. He also led Manchester with three hits, while Norris and Rieke had two hits each.

“Sometimes it’s easier to lose a 20-5 game than a 6-5 game,” Manchester coach Rick Espeset said of the tough loss. “But these guys are resilient. It’s going to hurt, but the thing about baseball is that you get to come back and play again.”