HIGH POINT, N.C. – High Point University baseball completes the season series sweep of triad rival North Carolina A&T this Wednesday, defeating the Aggies for the seventh straight time, by a final score of 3-2. Starter Muhammed Eid tossed a career-high eight innings to earn his second win of the year, despite recording just a single strikeout on the afternoon.
“[Muhammed Eid] really struggled early with command, but the thing about Mo, is that he’s going to compete,” said Head Coach Cozart. “He just figured out a way. He got a little better as he went, found his cutter, his changeup became more of a factor, and then they started to key on that and he was able to work the fastball through some guys. The thing about him, is that if he doesn’t put free runners on base at a high level, then he’s going to keep us in the game. He kept our defense involved today, and we had two errors, but I thought we were pretty special defensively…”
The Panthers opened the scoring in the second inning after JJ Woodard crossed home on an error committed by the Aggies’ third baseman. Drawing a five-pitch walk, Woodard moved into scoring position on a Sam Zayicek single before getting to third on the ensuing fielder’s choice. While he would not get credit for the RBI, recently named Big South Freshman of the Week Trent Harris was the one to put the ball in play for Woodard’s unearned run, giving HPU a 1-0 advantage headed into the third.
Reaching first on a fielder’s choice, Harris scored the run to double his team’s lead in the fifth, scoring on a triple from fellow freshman Evan Bergman. Bergman drove a diving ball to right field, that was inherently misplayed by the Aggie outfielder, sliding into third for the first three-bagger of his young career. Harris managed to cross home on the play to make it 2-0, as Bergman extended his current hitting streak to seven straight appearances.
Tossing a career-high in both innings (8.0) and pitches (112), junior starter Muhammed Eid had a deal of help from the players behind him on Wednesday, as the entire HPU defense made it near impossible for the Aggies to find a hole to hit through.
“Trent [Harris] reached base and scored a couple of runs, but was unbelievable defensively,” said Coach Cozart. “He was laying out left and right, keeping balls on the infield and making great plays…Daniel Millwee made several unbelievable plays at first, JJ Woodard caught and kept the ball in front of him behind the plate, so there was a lot of good stuff today defensively.”
With their six hits spread out over nine frames, the Aggies were unable to manufacture any runs Wednesday night, relying on the long ball to get them back into the contest. A solo jack in the sixth put visiting A&T back into striking distance in the top half, before HPU would add its final run of the afternoon in the seventh.
With Harris touching first for the third time on his walk, the third baseman would move to second on Bergman’s second knock of the night later in the inning. A Ryan Russell walk filled the bases for Joe Johnson, who took advantage of the RBI-opportunity, with a sac fly ball to left field.
“It looks like Evan Bergman’s found a nice spot at the top of the lineup, with two more hits today, and an RBI,” said Cozart. “I have to talk about Joe Johnson with the game-winning RBI. In a bases loaded situation, he smokes a ball hard backside, so that was great.”
The Aggies would pull back within one in the final stanza, hitting yet another home run, this time to right field. With a single out remaining in the contest, freshman Jack Nathan took the mound for the first save opportunity of his career.
“Jack’s proven in his few opportunities that he’s been able to handle lefties pretty well, and he got the result there,” said Cozart, describing the final at bat of the night. “Three straight sliders for a strikeout and his first career save. He’s got a steely confidence about him. Every situation that I’ve put him in has been a pretty big situation and he’s handled it thus far. It’s pretty exciting to see him coming into his own and becoming a part of our bullpen.”
With Nathan closing out the affair, the Panthers finish their season series with A&T, giving the club seven straight wins against their Greensboro rivals dating back to 2014.
>> Freshman Sam Zayicek and sophomore Travis Holt each delivered a hit on the night, with the former reaching first safely in his last three appearances
>> Daniel Millwee’s knock brings his season OBP to .351, he’s reached in all but one contest this year
>> Russell has responded well since his move up to the front third of the lineup, going 5-for-9 (.555) with a pair of walks and two extra-base hits in his last three games
COMING UP NEXT
High Point baseball opens up the conference season at home this weekend, facing off with visiting Campbell inside Williard Stadium. The Panthers and Camels were picked to finish first and second respectively in this year’s D1Baseball preseason poll, and vice versa in the Big South Preseason coaches poll. It will be the first time the two sides have seen each other since HPU dropped a 7-5 decision to their conference rival in last year’s Big South Championship final.
“it’s going to be a battle,” said Cozart. “We’re going to see a team that has a very mature returning offense. They’ve got quality and depth on the mound, some high-end arms from a velocity standpoint, and of course this is the first time we’ve seen them since the Big South Conference Championship game. Our series are always very intense, you could say, and I think with this being the first conference series it’s really going to be everything that it’s built up to be.”