NORFOLK, Va. – With some inclement weather forcing the Panthers to play two on Friday, High Point University split its doubleheader at Old Dominion, dropping the Monarchs 5-4 in game two, after a 7-0 loss in the first.
“Our guys responded exactly like we thought, and hoped they would, in game two,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “…Harrison Smith went out and pitched good, the bullpen did a nice job and Grey Lyttle slammed it in the end. Joe Johnson drove in the game-tying RBI and JJ Woodard with the game-winner. I’m proud of how the guys responded and we’re in the position to win a road series in the opening weekend, which is difficult to do.”
The Panthers fell behind early in Game One after spotting their hosts a trifecta of runs in the opening frame. The Monarchs would take their early 3-0 lead and run with it, scoring in four straight innings from the fourth through the seventh to finish the first half of Friday’s doubleheader with a 7-0 final.
High Point would collect seven hits overall in that first game, with sophomore Travis Holt, senior JJ Woodard and freshman Sam Zayicek garnering a pair of knocks each. Zayicek’s performance was his first in a Panther uniform, reaching first safely in three of his four plate appearances, after his walk in the ninth.
It was the Panthers’ turn to take an early lead in game two, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in their first opportunity at the plate. Following a walk from Conner Dunbar and a single from Holt, senior Daniel Millwee loaded the bases after drawing a base on balls, giving designated hitter Joe Johnson his first RBI opportunity of opening day.
The junior slotted a single through the left side to score both Dunbar and Holt, before Millwee crossed home on Zayicek’s third single of the doubleheader to make it 3-0.
The Monarchs pulled a pair back in the bottom half of the frame, the only two runs of the afternoon allowed by right-handed starter Harrison Smith. Smith settled in over the next three innings of his four-inning start, striking out four with just a single walk surrendered.
A pair of unearned runs would put the Panthers behind the eight ball in the sixth with a 4-3 deficit to surmount, but the visiting side bounced back in the following frame on a two-out rally. With Millwee getting things started on his double to left, Johnson followed up with his third RBI of the game before scoring in the next at bat on JJ Woodard’s single.
HPU closer Grey Lyttle took care of business in the final two innings of the day, facing the minimum through the eighth and ninth with four strikeouts. Lyttle’s save is his first of the season, as he looks to build off the pair he had last year as a sophomore, and cement his role as Cozart and company’s regular closer for the 2019 campaign.
COMING UP NEXT
With Saturday’s weather delaying any possibilities at a series finale, the Panthers will faceoff with ODU on Sunday at 11 AM in a rubber contest to decide the series. Joe Johnson is expected to take the mound for the Purple & White in the Sunday morning contest.