SPARTANBURG, S.C. – High Point University clinched its first Big South series victory this weekend, riding a complete game performance from right-hander Harrison Smith. Smith’s CG was the first for the Panthers since May 6, 2017, as HPU completed game two of their series at USC Upstate with a 3-1 advantage.
“It was a special performance from [Harrison Smith] and I’m very proud of him,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “Anytime you can throw a complete game it’s pretty special, but he got stronger as the game went on. His stuff was as crisp in the ninth as it was in the second and third. It was great to see him really be able to channel all of his aggression in the ninth inning and put a finishing touch on this thing. It’s what we needed right now. It helped us win our first conference series of the year and put us in a position to sweep tomorrow.”
After giving up a pair of back-to-back hits and a single run in the opening frame, Smith did not give up another knock until the fifth, as he held the Spartans to just four on the day. The righty faced just two over the minimum after that fifth inning, closing out his complete game performance with a total of seven strikeouts on the day. With just a walk and a hit by pitch, Upstate tallied only six base runners against Smith overall, not counting a pair that reached on error in the bottom half of the second.
With Smith keeping the Spartans to a single run, the Panthers evened things up during the fourth, off a solo homer from Ryan Russell. The junior center fielder swung on the first pitch of the at bat to put his side back level at one apiece, sending his first home run in Purple & White over the left field wall.
HPU found some insurance in the sixth with Evan Bergman and Russell reaching first on a single and an Upstate fielding error respectively. The pair moved over on the double steal, before junior Joe Johnson made it a 2-1 game on his groundout RBI.
The seventh would be more of the same, with the Panthers putting up their third run of the afternoon. JJ Woodard opened the frame with his second double before heading to third on a Trent Harris sac bunt and coming home on a Sam Zayicek single.
“Once again Coach [Jason] Laws pushed some good buttons and put us in a position to put a few runs on the board,” said Cozart. “Sometimes it’s not easy, but it’s baseball. If you pitch and play defense you’re always going to look like you’re competitive in a ball game, and that’s what, fortunately, we’ve been doing for the last two days.”
With Smith in high-form, the Spartans sent only 10 batters to the plate in the final three innings, as Smith and the Panthers closed out Saturday’s contest with a 3-1 win.
>> With his homer, Russell has touched first in his last nine appearance, delivering an OBP of .556 during that span
>> Woodard’s pair of doubles are a season-best for the Panthers, the first multiple XBH performance for High Point in 2019
>> The last HPU arm to toss a complete game was Drew Daczkowski against Charleston Southern on May 6, 2017
>> Collecting the Panthers’ first knock of the day with a single in the second inning, Travis Holt extended his current hitting streak to eight straight appearances
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers have a chance for their first weekend sweep of the year this Sunday at 1 PM, against USC Upstate. The victory would mark the 300th of Head Coach Craig Cozart’s career at the High Point helm.