SPARTANBURG, S.C. – High Point University baseball was the better team in eight of their nine innings against USC Upstate this Sunday, as a seven-run rally from the Spartans in the fifth secured a 7-5 loss for the visiting Panthers. Starting pitcher and designated hitter Joe Johnson recorded his second homer of the season against Upstate, while delivering three of his team’s seven knocks on the afternoon.
“Joe [Johnson]’s been fairly consistent,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “He had a big home run today, a game-winning RBI yesterday, and that’s good. We need a lot more from more people though…”
The beginning stages of Sunday’s matchup looked like the preamble to a Panther blowout victory, with the Purple & White plating a pair of runs on a walk and two singles in the opening frame. Junior Ryan Russell extended his on base streak to 10 on a five-pitch walk, before moving over on the ensuing single from Johnson. The pair moved over on a deep fly ball out from Daniel Millwee, before both crossed home on Travis Holt’s third knock of the series, to make it 2-0.
With both teams going scoreless from innings two through four, the Panthers added some insurance in the top half of the fifth, as senior Conner Dunbar tallied a lead off single to start the term. The Panther shortstop stole his fourth bag of the season to put himself into scoring position, as Russell took advantage of the RBI situation with a single up the middle.
The bottom half would see the Spartans put up a seven-spot however, as the home side recorded five of their ten hits in the frame, in addition to a pair of walks. Four of Upstate’s runs in the inning would go down as unearned, as the hosts took advantage of an HPU defensive error that helped to extend the inning.
The Spartans had a chance to increase their lead in the sixth if not for some superior relief work from freshman Bryan Woelfel. The first-year Panther entered the game inheriting a pair of runners in scoring position, but sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around an intentional walk to keep the score at 7-3.
The HPU offense continued to fight its way back into the contest with Joe Johnson delivering his solo shot in the seventh, followed by a no-doubter from first baseman JJ Woodard to get back within two in the eighth.
Johnson finished his afternoon a triple shy of the cycle after delivering a two-out double in the top of the ninth, as the intentional walk of Millwee put the tying run on base for the Panthers in the late stages. HPU was forced to take the 7-5 loss however, as the pair of baserunners were left stranded in what would be the final at bat of the series.
With wins on Friday and Saturday, the Panthers still take the series win over the Spartans this weekend, falling just a pair of runs short of their first weekend sweep of 2019.
>> With his early single, Holt has now delivered a knock in his past nine appearances
>> Finishing this Sunday with a hit and a walk, Russell has now reached first safely in the Panthers’ past 10 contests. He’s sporting an OBP of .537 during that current streak
>> Johnson’s three knocks tie a career-high for the junior, after delivering a trio against William & Mary the previous season (3/3/18)
>> Woodard’s jack was his third of the season and his fourth hit against the Spartans this week. He slashed .364/.385/.818 in HPU’s series with Upstate
>> Freshman Jack Nathan faced two batters in his Sunday appearance against USC Upstate, he’s still yet to surrender a run over his young career in Purple & White
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers will remain on the road with their Tuesday matchup at NC Central. The Purple & White will be looking for the season sweep against the Eagles after defeating NCCU 6-4 inside Williard last month.