• Junior Andrew Gottfried and senior Rion Murrah combined to throw 8.2 hitless innings in Thursday’s night win before a two-out single in the ninth inning.
• High Point dealt Winthrop its first conference loss of the season with a balanced offensive attack featuring a season-high five doubles.
• Senior Hunter Lee extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a two-hit performance, matching his career-best.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team came within one out of the first no-hitter in the program’s Division I history on Thursday night, ultimately settling for a one-hitter in a 6-1 triumph over Winthrop in the opener of a three-game series at Williard Stadium.
Junior Andrew Gottfired started and pitched into the fourth inning before giving way to senior Rion Murrah, who provided a dominant six innings of relief. Winthrop’s (12-15, 6-1) Grant English singled up the middle on a 1-0 pitch with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to prevent the no-hitter.
Gottfried had worked around a pair of leadoff walks in his first three innings of work, aided by a diving catch from senior Jordan Sergent in the first inning and a nice pick of his own on a comebacker in the third inning to keep Winthrop hitless. However, a leadoff error and two walks ended his day prematurely in the fourth.
“At that point, we had to make a move quick,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “Rion Murrah has been nails for us for two years and he just made pitch after pitch tonight. His slider was virtually unhittable.”
“I’ve been struggling with my slider the last couple of outings,” Murrah said. “I got in the bullpen with Coach Cozart this week and got it straightened out and went out there today and it was just locked in. The defense was out there helping me out a lot and that makes that pitch that much tougher.”
Murrah (2-2) allowed a sacrifice fly to the first batter he faced, but coaxed a momentum-changing 6-4-3 double play to finish off the frame and keep the game tied 1-1 at that point.
HPU had gained a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on a two-out double from senior Austen Zente, driving in junior JJ Woodard, who had led the frame off with a double. Feeding off the momentum, High Point scored twice to take the lead for good in the home half of the fourth on a double play ball and a two-out RBI single from Woodard.
In the fifth, High Point added two more runs via an RBI single from freshman Travis Holt and a safety squeeze from redshirt-junior Daniel Millwee to push the lead to 5-1. Senior Blake Schunk would account for the final tally with a two-out RBI double in the last of the eighth inning.
Murrah retired the first 16 hitters he faced from the fourth to the ninth innings, growing more dominant as the game moved along. He struck out the side in the sixth inning, which began a string of eight strikeouts in a 10-batter span that fed into the top of the ninth. After Murrah’s eighth K of the game led off the frame, he induced a weak groundout for the second out. But history would be denied on a roller up the middle from English that accounted for Winthrop’s lone hit. After a walk, Murrah punctuated his outing with his ninth punchout to end the game.
The Bainbridge, Ga. native set a new career high with six innings pitched, coming two shy of his career-best in strikeouts (11 vs Campbell at the 2017 Big South Tournament). His season ERA dipped to 2.42 in the process.
Not to be lost in the strong pitching performance, HPU collected a season-high five doubles, most of which came against preseason pitcher of the year, Nate Pawelczyk (3-3). Senior Hunter Lee provided one of those doubles as he went 2-for-3 with a run scored to push his hitting streak to 17 games, tying his career-long.
“I have to give credit to our hitters,” Cozart said. “We were facing a really tough guy, but we put together quality at-bats all night. When you stack together a bunch of extra-base hits against him, then you’re doing some good things offensively. It was a high-level baseball game tonight and we’re glad to come away with the win.”
The Panthers and Eagles return to the diamond on Friday night in the middle game of the series. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.