HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team scored two runs in the bottom of the 11th inning to come from behind for a 5-4 win over Gardner-Webb on Sunday afternoon at Williard Stadium. Sophomore Cody Manzella drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in the winning run for the Panthers.
“I am very happy that we were able to send our seniors out in their last home game with a win,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “I have to give credit to Gardner-Webb for playing extremely hard all weekend. I also give credit to our guys for being relentless and having belief. Our guys earned this one today. It wasn’t easy but it will pay huge dividends for the rest of the season.”
High Point trailed 4-3 heading into the bottom of the 11th inning after an RBI double in the top of the frame by GWU’s Brantley Smith, who had entered the game two innings earlier as a defensive replacement.
Freshman Brett Gemmell led off the bottom of the 11th with a double to the right field wall and was bunted over to third by sophomore Josh Spano. High Point then drew four-straight walks with the last two driving in the tying and winning runs. Gardner-Webb’s Brad Haymes walked sophomore Spencer Angelis and Ryan Retz to load the bases. Beau Hilton relieved Haymes with a 2-0 count on senior Devin Bujnovsky and walked the senior to score the first run and tie the game. He then walked Manzella to push across the winning run.
Senior Jared Avidon earned the win for HPU. The senior entered the game with a runner on second and no outs in the top of the 11th and got three outs to end the threat. The senior struck out the final two batters he faced. Beau Hilton took the loss for Gardner-Webb.
Gardner-Webb forced extra inning with a ninth-inning rally in which the Runnin’ Bulldogs scored two runs to tie the game at 3-3. JJ Navarro led off the inning with a single off HPU starter Malcolm Clapsaddle and moved to third when Benji Jackson hit a one-out double off reliever Sean Townsley, who was called in to face the left-handed hitter. Sophomore Joe Goodman came out of the bullpen to try and put out the fire, but a double by Brad Collins tied the game at 3-3.
High Point had a chance to win the game in regulation when Retz hit a two-out single with runners on first and second but Spano was thrown out at the plate by GWU left fielder Alex Newman to preserve the tie. HPU returned the favor in the next half inning when Bujnovsky threw out GWU pinch runner Evan Hyatt at the plate for the final out of the top of the 10th.
Navarro drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single for Gardner-Webb in the top of the third inning following a hit batter and a walk.
Clapsaddle settled down after the RBI single and did not surrender another hit to the Runnin’ Bulldogs until the ninth inning, retiring 18 of the 20 batters he faced from the third inning on. Clapsaddle pitched a career-high 8-1/3 innings on the day for High Point in a no decision. He allowed just two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out six batters.
High Point tied the game with a run in the fourth inning when sophomore Stephen Wytiaz was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, then took a 3-1 lead one inning later on an RBI double by Angelis. Senior Willie Medina walked with one out in the fifth and Spano hit a two-out single ahead of Angelis who hit the first pitch he saw to left-center to score both base runners.
Angelis finished the game going 3-4 at the plate with two RBI and a run scored. Spano also had a good day at the plate, going 2-4 with two runs scored.
With the win, High Point clinched the weekend series over GWU, two games to one. HPU improves to 26-26 overall and 12-9 in the Big South with the win. Gardner-Webb drops to 25-24-1 overall and 9-11 in the Big South.
High Point will begin its season-ending four-game road trip on Tuesday, May 14, when the team travels to Charlotte, N.C., to take on the Charlotte 49ers. The Panthers are 0-1 against Charlotte this season after falling at home, 12-3, in their first midweek game of the season back in February.