CLINTON, S.C. – The High Point University baseball team fell late to Presbyterian College, giving up two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to lose by a score of 7-6. The Panthers loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but were unable to push the winning run across.
“We fought awfully hard today,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “We did some good things offensively but we need to figure out a way to get more outs in the middle innings. There was nothing wrong with the effort or intensity with which we played today. You can’t get swept in conference play so we need to figure out a way to win the game tomorrow.”
HPU led 6-5 heading into the eighth inning when PC catcher Brad Zebedis led off with a double down the left field line. Zebedis moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a suicide squeeze. The Blue Hose then loaded the bases with a walk and a single to right before the game stopped for a 30-minute weather delay due to hail.
Following the delay, Presbyterian College went back to the suicide squeeze when Jay Lizanich laid a bunt down and Aaron Preston slid in ahead of the throw home from sophomore Joe Goodman to score the go-ahead run.
High Point managed to load the bases with two outs in the ninth as sophomore Cody Manzella was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and sophomore Josh Spano and freshman Sly Edwards hit back-to-back singles through the infield. Senior Ryan Retz followed Edwards and hit a dribbler back to the mound allowing the Blue Hose to get the force at home to end the game.
Presbyterian jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but High Point answered with a run of its own in the next half inning to tie the game at 1-1. Retz doubled down the left field line to start the second inning then came around to score on back-to-back grounders to the second baseman.
The Panthers went ahead by a score of 4-1 with three runs in the top of the third inning. Manzella scored the first run after leading off the frame with a single. He stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Devin Bujnovsky. Spano followed the Bujnovsky sacrifice with a single and then scored on a double by freshman Brett Gemmell. Gemmell was then driven in on a single by Retz.
After Presbyterian College scored twice in the bottom of the third, HPU added another run in the top of the fourth to go ahead 5-3. Graduate student Adam Barry led off the inning with a single and came around to score on an error by the PC shortstop.
The Blue Hose tied the game at 5-5 with runs in the fourth and fifth before HPU retook the lead in the top of the seventh on an RBI double by Spano. Senior Willie Medina led off the inning with a double into the left-center gap, sliding in just under the tag at second. Spano drove in the shortstop with a double off the left-center wall.
Spano finished 4-5 on the day for the Panthers with two doubles, one RBI and one run scored. Retz also had an RBI and a run scored in the game while going 2-5 at the plate. Eight other HPU batters recorded a hit, giving High Point 14 for the game, second-most in a game this season.
Redshirt-junior Jaime Schultz suffered the loss in relief for High Point. Schultz pitched 3-1/3 innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits and two walks. Redshirt-junior Sean Townsley started the game for the Panthers and lasted four innings. The lefty allowed five runs, three earned, on seven hits while striking out four. Goodman entered the game following the weather delay and got the last two outs, both on strikeouts.
Tim Corbin pitched two innings of scoreless relief to pick up the win for Presbyterian College. Chandler Knox started for the Blue Hose and went seven innings, allowing six earned runs on 11 hits.
High Point will attempt to avoid the sweep when they take on the Blue Hose in the third and final game of the weekend series on Sunday, March 3, at 1 p.m. Senior Jared Avidon will get the start for the Panthers on the mound. The right hander is 2-0 so far this season.