High Point Downs Radford, 6-3, Behind Gottfried’s Gem
Courtesy of Kevin Burke, HPU SID
• High Point tied a Div. I program record with its 33rd win of the year, and fifth straight, in a 6-3 triumph over No. 6 Radford.
• Junior Andrew Gottfired was superb on the hill, setting a new career high with nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings.
• HPU advances to the Big South Baseball Championship semifinals with a 2-0 record for the first time since 2014.
LYNCHBURG, Va. – A dominant day on the mound from junior Andrew Gottfried and multiple highlight-reel defensive plays elevated the High Point University baseball team to a 6-3 win over No. 6 seed Radford on Wednesday evening at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
“This was a really complete game,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “Obviously it started with Gottfried on the mound getting us deep in his outstanding start. The middle of our lineup produced at a high level. The four runs in the fifth inning was the margin of error we needed. We’re in a good position right now and I’m proud of the way our guys reacted today.
With the 2-0 record, the Panthers (33-21) are one win away from playing in the Big South Championship Game for the first time in program history. HPU enters the semifinals with a perfect record for the first time since 2014 and for the first time overall since 2015.
Additionally, High Point’s 33rd win of the year ties a Div. I program record, a mark originally set by the 2014 team. The Purple & White also set a new season-best with their fifth-straight victory.
Gottfrtied (6-5) posted one of the finest starts of his career, keeping the Highlanders (25-31) off balance all afternoon. He needed just nine pitches to retire the side in the first, setting the tone for the outing as he struck out six of the first 11 batters he faced.
The first team all-conference honoree then utilized his defense to keep Radford from scoring. With a runner at second and two down in the fourth, redshirt-junior catcher Daniel Millwee pulled junior first baseman JJ Woodard off the bag on a tough throw. However, Woodard was able to fire the ball straight back to Millwee who applied the tag at the plate to cut down a would-be run.
Radford loaded the bases with one out in the fifth before Gottfried tied his career high with his eighth strikeout for the second out. Then, junior shortstop Conner Dunbar laid out on a ball up the middle and fired to Woodard, who just kept his foot on the bag for a momentum-changing groundout.
Instead of seeing Radford cut into a 2-0 lead, HPU rebounded with four huge insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Senior Austen Zente started the parade with an infield single and advanced to second on an error. Freshman Travis Holt then delivered his first hit of the tournament with an RBI single to left-center.
Senior Hunter Lee and freshman Travis Wells followed with RBI doubles while senior Jordan Sergent provided the cherry on top with an RBI two-bagger of his own to extend the advantage to 6-0.
The Panthers’ strong defensive play continued in the sixth inning when Sergent, Dunbar, and Millwee combined for a picture-perfect relay to cut down another Highlander at the plate.
“Taking runs off the board with Dunbar’s diving play and then throwing a guy out at home on a heck of a relay and a great tag by Millwee could’ve been the differnce in the ballgame,” Cozart said. “That’s what we’ve done all year – we’re a special defensive club. We played really well today.”
Buoyed by the defensive brilliance, Gottfried pitched into the seventh inning, recording his career-best ninth strikeout on his 111th and final pitch of the night. In 6.2 frames, he scattered seven hits and walked just one hitter. Junior Cooper Jeffers and Sophomore Grey Lyttle combined to get the final seven outs to preserve the win.
High Point gained an early 2-0 advantage in the last of the first inning when senior Carson Jackson drilled a two-out, two-strike, two-run double down the left field line to score both Lee and Wells.
HPU belted five doubles as a squad, two from Jackson, who finished 2-for-4 with two RBI. Wells also collected a pair of hits, scored twice, and drove in one. Eight of the nine Panthers in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit.
High Point will enjoy an off day on Thursday before returning to semifinal action on Friday afternoon at approximately 1:30 p.m. The opponent will not be determined until Thursday night. Regardless of the opposition, HPU needs just one win to advance to the championship game for the first time in program history.