HPU Baseball Buries Longwood, 10-2, Behind Eight-Run Eighth

• HPU broke open a 2-2 tie with an eight-run top of the eighth inning, its largest frame of the season.
• The Panthers claimed the series to open conference play, the fourth time in five seasons that High Point started Big South action with a winning series.
• Senior Austen Zente finished a home run shy of the cycle, going 3-for-5 with a double, triple, two runs scored and two RBI.

FARMVILLE, Va. – An eight-run eruption in the top of the eighth inning lifted the High Point University baseball team to a 10-2 victory over Longwood on Sunday afternoon at Buddy Bolding Stadium. The Panthers claimed the series in the process by winning the last two games of the set.

“I’m very proud of this team for finding a way to win the series on the road,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “This is going to bode well for the rest of our season. Cooper Jeffers got us into the middle innings and Jonny Vizcaino once again slammed the door. He’s been really good at that.

“Then, when you put up an eight-spot late in the game, you’re going to win most of those. We stuck with our plan offensively and took advantage of the big inning. Any time you go on the road and take two out of three, you have to be happy.”

For the fourth time in five seasons, High Point (10-9, 2-1) pulled out a series victory on the opening weekend of Big South play and has won five of its last seven games to move over .500 on the year.

Longwood (6-12, 1-2) was the first to get on the board, plating a pair of runs in the last of the fourth against Panther starter Cooper Jeffers. The junior yielded a run on an error before walking a man to end his day. Redshirt-junior Jonny Vizcaino entered and allowed a run on a bloop single before swinging the momentum by inducing a 1-2-3 double play to end the threat.

High Point immediately responded by tying the game in the top of the fifth. With two runners in scoring position and one away, sophomore Joe Johnson lifted a sacrifice fly to plate junior JJ Woodard. A wild pitch allowed senior Austen Zente to scramble home and knot the game.

The score remained tied at two until High Point broke through against the Longwood bullpen in the eighth. Back-to-back walks and a single loaded the bases with nobody out for senior Hunter Lee, who drew a bases loaded free pass to push the Panthers in front 3-2. Senior Blake Schunk followed with an RBI single to make it 4-2 and senior Jordan Sergent slammed a two-run single up the middle to grow the lead to 6-2.

After a single and a run-scoring fielder’s choice, Zente smoked a two-run triple to the gap in right-center, making it 9-2 Panthers. Redshirt-junior Daniel Millwee capped the rally by reaching on a fielder’s choice that drove in a run.

In total, High Point’s largest inning of the season featured eight runs on five hits and four walks with 12 hitters coming to bat.

Meanwhile, Vizcaino (3-0) used the momentum created by the double play in the fourth to silence the Lancers the rest of the way. After a pair of two-out baserunners in the fifth, Vizcaino retired 13 in a row before a two-out walk in the ninth. The righthander pitched a season-long 5.2 frames, giving up just two hits and two walks while striking out three.

Zente was the offensive star for High Point, finishing a home run shy of the cycle. In his second game back after missing five games, Zente was 3-for-5 with a double, triple, two runs scored and two RBI. Senior Carson Jackson added a pair of hits and Lee extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a 1-for-4 day.

High Point remains on the road for its mid-week contest this week, traveling to Durham, N.C. on Wednesday to take on NC Central at 6 p.m. HPU then returns home for a three-game series against Radford next Friday-Sunday at Williard Stadium.