HIGH POINT, N.C. – An early offensive outburst and an RBI double by freshman Brett Gemmell combined with stellar relief pitching from redshirt-junior Malcolm Clapsaddle helped the High Point University baseball team to a 6-5 win over LIU Brooklyn Friday night at Williard Stadium. Gemmell went 2-3 and drove in two runs in his first HPU start.
“We showed a lot of character in this game tonight,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “We got on a roll early, but their guy settled in and then we had an unfortunate defensive inning that cost us some runs. We learned from last time though and came right back out and answered with two runs on a huge hit by Gemmell. That allowed us to put Clapsaddle out on the mound and he took control from there. He dug in and we put up four zeros to end the game. I am proud of the resiliency this team showed. This is going to be tough series with two more difficult games this weekend.”
Gemmell gave the Panthers the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out double to the Panther’s Den in right centerfield. After walks by graduate student Adam Barry and senior Ryan Retz, the freshman scorched an 0-1 pitch to the gap scoring both runners and giving High Point a lead it would not relinquish.
Clapsaddle evened his record to 1-1 while earning the win for the Panthers in relief. The senior pitched 3-2/3 innings without allowing a run and only giving up one hit. He also struck out four Blackbirds and escaped an inherited bases-loaded jam in the fifth to preserve the lead.
The win improves High Point to 3-2 on the year while LIU Brooklyn opens the 2013 season with an 0-1 mark.
The Panthers got off to a hot start in the game, scoring four times in the first inning. Senior Devin Bujnovsky started things off by doubling to right centerfield and was plated by sophomore catcher Josh Spano’s double off the base of the left centerfield wall. Retz stepped up to the plate and knocked home Spano with a single to right field and he was followed up by redshirt-senior Sean Wilson who laced a single up the middle to score Retz and Barry, who had been hit by a pitch.
The Blackbirds put up one run in the fourth but managed to break through in their half of the fifth inning thanks to an HPU error and timely hitting. LIU Brooklyn loaded the bases after a single and two walks before senior shortstop Willie Medina was unable to handle a potential double-play ball and a double to right field by Albert Faz tied the game. Right fielder Kevin Needham scored after Jesse Brown was hit by a pitch to give LIU a 5-4 advantage.
Senior Jacob Newberry got the start but did not factor into the decision for the Panthers. The finished the day going 4-1/3 innings yielding five runs, two earned, on five hits with four strikeouts and three walks. Newberry has allowed just two earned runs in his two starts this season but his record remains 0-0.
Joe Goodman pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his second save of the season. The sophomore allowed one hit in the inning but responded with back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
LIU Brooklyn starter Justin Topa took the loss in the Blackbirds’ first game of the season to fall to 0-1 on the year. The redshirt-junior tossed 4-2/3 innings giving up six earned runs on seven hits while tallying four walks and four strikeouts.
Spano and Bujnovsky each played well for the Panthers as Spano went 2-4 on the night with an RBI while also threwing out a would-be base stealer and Bujnovsky was 2-3 in the contest with a double and a run scored.
Faz led the way offensively for the Blackbirds, going 2-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI, but struck out in his final at bat to finish the game.
The Panthers will look to clinch the series win on Saturday, Feb. 23, when they return to Williard Stadium for the second game of three at 2 p.m. Redshirt-junior Sean Townsley will take the mound for High Point in his second start of the season.