• Senior Carson Jackson drilled a game-winning two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning to give HPU a comeback victory.
• The Panthers rallied with three runs in the top of the ninth inning to force extras, tying the game with two outs.
• Sophomore Joe Johnson posted a quality start in his first career start, giving up just one earned run in seven innings.
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Down to its final out, the High Point University baseball team recorded its best comeback of the season with a 6-5 triumph in 10 innings at Gardner-Webb in the opener of a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at Moss Stadium.
“This one was an absolute grind,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “Joe Johnson was special in his first career start on the mound. He got us deep in the game still in position to win and Carson Jackson came up in a huge moment to put us up (in the 10th). From there, we were able to secure the victory.”
The Panthers (19-15, 10-4) trailed 4-1 entering the ninth, but got a boost from senior Hunter Lee, who led off the frame with a solo homer to immediately cut the deficit to 4-2. After a strikeout, junior JJ Woodard singled and senior Jordan Sergent doubled to put the tying runs in scoring position. Freshman Tanner Wells lifted a sacrifice fly to center to make it 4-3 before senior Blake Schunk drove home Sergent with the tying tally on an RBI single to left field.
Senior Rion Murrah posted a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to keep the momentum going in the 10th. Lee drew a two-out walk to extend the frame for senior Carson Jackson, who crushed an opposite field two-run home run to put the Panthers ahead 6-4. Murrah (3-2) yielded a sac fly in the last of the 10th, but got a groundout with the tying run at second base to finish off the game.
The victory was High Point’s first in extra innings this year and second when trailing after eight frames on the campaign.
The comeback took sophomore starter Joe Johnson off the hook from a potential loss. Johnson (1-1) was simply outstanding in his first career start, tossing seven quality innings. The sophomore gave up a one-out homer in the last of the first, but came back to retire 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced.
A leadoff error in the last of the fifth proved costly, though. With two down and two on, Johnson came within a strike of getting out of the jam, but Gardner-Webb’s (21-16, 7-7) Mason Fox golfed a three-run homer to left for a 4-1 advantage. Johnson set down six of seven after the long ball and lasted seven frames. He gave up four runs (one earned) on five hits, striking out four and walking one.
HPU had taken a 1-0 lead on a leadoff solo homer from senior Austen Zente in the top of the first, his ninth of the year, which extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Lee’s dinger was part of a two-hit day that pushed his team-best hitting streak to 26 games.
The Panthers and Runnin’ Bulldogs finish out the series with the rubber game in the nightcap of the doubleheader on Saturday evening.