HIGH POINT, N.C. – High Point University baseball surrendered its first series loss of the season this Saturday, with visiting William & Mary taking both legs of the afternoon’s doubleheader. The Tribe took game one by a final of 6-2, while the Panthers’ early 2-0 lead in game two dwindled to a 4-3 loss to finish the night.
“Give [William & Mary] credit, they swept us in a doubleheader,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “Now we have to see if we have any toughness in us and figure out a way to salvage a game in the series.”
Taking a lead in the third, William & Mary would lead throughout the opening contest, as the Panther pitching staff spotted the visiting Tribe six runs before getting on the board in the fifth.
With sophomore Tanner Wells leading off the inning on a four-pitch walk, freshman Sam Zayicek followed with a single through the right side to give the Purple & White a pair of early base runners. The pair advanced into scoring position on a passed ball before nine-hole hitter Nick Niarchos recorded his first sac-fly RBI of 2019, while Zayicek crossed home on a Conner Dunbar single in the following at bat. The Panthers would go down in the order over the proceeding three frames, eventually falling by a final of 6-2.
HPU might have been the better squad in game two, but stranded runners proved to haunt the hosting side, as the Purple & White left nine of 12 potential runs on the base paths. The Panthers were boosted by a superb performance from starting pitcher Harrison Smith, who came within one pitch of his longest career outing (95) and a single strikeout of new personal best (9).
“I thought Harrison Smith was tremendous. He was unlucky to be in the situation that he was in,” said Cozart. “…You give up two earned runs in a ball game, you sure anticipate that you’re going to win, but it didn’t happen for us tonight.”
High Point took a 2-0 lead in the fourth, riding back-to-back RBI knocks from Zayicek and Niarchos. Ryan Russel’s leadoff single culminated in a Zayicek RBI-single, while Niarchos’ double down the left field line brought in Zayicek from first. With Smith still on the bump, a pair of passed balls resulted in a tie ball game in the fifth, with the Tribe tallying a pair of unearned runs in the bottom frame.
The visitors went on to take a lead in the sixth, but the Panthers would battle back to stack things even in the seventh. Dunbar collected his fourth hit of the afternoon before stealing second to get into scoring position, eventually moving to third and then home plate on back to back wild pitches from W&M reliever Randall Prosperi.
The Tribe would get that run back in the eighth however, scoring on a Panthers’ wild pitch to go back out in front 4-3. With HPU stranding a pair of runners over the final six outs of the contest, the score remained as it had after the top of the eighth, to complete a two-game doubleheader sweep for the visiting Tribe.
>> Dunbar finished 4-for-9 over the course of the Panthers’ two games, catapulting his batting average from .167 to .242 on the year
>> Freshman Evan Bergman went 3-for-4 in game two, a new career-high in hits for the young Panther
>> Niarchos finished with a pair of RBI on the night, notching his second double of the season in game two
>> Daniel Millwee had a big performance from behind the dish in game one, throwing out a pair of potential base stealers along with a pick-off
>> Freshman JP Murphy made his collegiate debut in game one, knocking a single to left field in his lone at bat of the night
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers will look to take the finale this Sunday at 12 PM with junior Joe Johnson currently slotted to get the start on the hill. Sitting with 299 wins in his career, Head Coach Craig Cozart will be looking to get number 300 with a win over the Tribe, in his 11th year at the HPU helm.