HPU Baseball Panthers Hold Spartans To Two Runs In Friday Victory

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – High Point University baseball took a one to nothing advantage in their Big South series against USC Upstate this Friday, emerging victorious in a 4-2 battle that saw the Panthers collect 10 hits and strike out 12 Spartan batters.

“It’s the first time in awhile that we’ve stacked hits together and been able to put zeros up on the board,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “It’s the first game of the series, that’s what you’ve got to do to win one, and we’ll hopefully come out tomorrow ready to roll and secure the series win.”

After giving up a single to the first batter he faced, starter Grey Lyttle settled in for a career performance against Upstate, collecting a career-high seven Ks. In his first start of the season, and the second of his career, Lyttle held the Spartans to two knocks and a single run through his 5.2 innings of work, tossing a career-high 103 pitches on the afternoon.

The Panthers got on the board with some small ball in the second inning, with senior first baseman JJ Woodard collecting a sac fly RBI. Daniel Millwee and Travis Holt led off the frame with back-to-back singles before freshman Sam Zayicek moved the pair into scoring position on a sac bunt. Woodard sent a fly ball to center field to give his side the 1-0 lead, his sixth run driven in this year.

After the Spartans tied things up in the bottom of the fourth, the Purple & White retook their lead in the proceeding frame on a Ryan Russell single. Trent Harris extended his on base streak to 10 straight games with his single, before fellow first-year Evan Bergman reached second on an Upstate fielding error. Russell reached base for an eighth straight appearance on an RBI knock to score Bergman, as HPU would bring a 2-1 lead into the sixth.

With his team up a run, sophomore righty Jacob Winger entered the contest in the bottom half of the fifth with bases loaded, delivering a seven-pitch strikeout to finish the frame. Tossing 3.1 innings to close out the night, Winger sat down four of the first five batters he faced on swinging strikeouts. The right-hander finished his night with a career-high five strikeouts on the way to collecting the first save of his two years at HPU.

“Lyttle got us through the first third of the game without any damage, which is something we hadn’t done in a long time,” said Coach Cozart. “He pitched aggressively, set a good tone and Winger comes in during a huge bases loaded situation and gets a strikeout and then takes us home. It’s the kind of pitching performance we haven’t gotten in a long time and it was exactly what we needed tonight.”

The Panthers would score their eventual game-winner, along with an insurance marker during the eighth, with Woodard and Harris tallying back-to-back knocks at the start things. Bergman hit a chopper to first to score the latter, before a Russell squeeze bunt gave HPU a three-run lead.

A triple and a single in the bottom of the eighth put the home team back within a pair, but Winger deleted any possibility of a comeback, facing two over the minimum in the final five outs of the night to finish things 4-2.

>> Holt hit for his seventh straight appearance going 1-for-5, as seven of the Panthers’ nine spots in the lineup collected one or more knocks
>> Russell’s two RBI is a career-high for the new Panther, with Bergman and Woodard driving in the other two runs of HPU’s night
>> Grey Lyttle and Jacob Winger combined for 12 strikeouts overall, one short of the season-high they put up against William & Mary

The Panthers have a shot to clinch the series this Saturday, with Harrison Smith expected to take the hill at 2 PM against the Spartans.