ROCK HILL, S.C. – High Point University baseball ceded a one-game advantage in its series with Winthrop this Friday, falling by a final of 8-2 in Rock Hill to open the weekend. The Panthers out-hit their hosts 9-8 on the night, but were unable to come back from an early WU lead.
“I told the guys, ‘we’re going to play the game backwards tomorrow’,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “We’re literally going to treat the first inning like its the ninth. If you look at what we’ve done all year, our best two-thirds of the game have been the middle and the last. Maybe if we just kind of flip that script from a mentality standpoint, maybe it will allow us to get off the snide a little bit, get through the first third of the game without too much damage and play with a lead for a change…”
After spotting the home side a pair of runs in the first inning, the Panthers cut their opponent’s lead in half during the second, on an RBI double from senior JJ Woodard. With Daniel Millwee leading off the frame with an HBP, Woodard delivered a knock to the center field wall to bring Millwee all the way in from first, as HPU entered the bottom half at a 2-1 disadvantage.
The Eagles hung another five unanswered in the following stages to go ahead 7-1, while freshman Sam Zayicek collected the first of his two doubles on the night in the top half of the fifth. Zayicek finished his night going 3-for-4 at the plate, a new career-high in hits for the first year Panther.
“Yeah, he [Sam Zayicek] was very competitive at the plate,” said Coach Cozart. “He had a great approach, bought in to what he was asked to do and got his fast balls and hit them hard. We have some young guys playing well…”
Coming on in relief of starter Grey Lyttle, right-hander KJ Wells provided 1.2 innings of shutout baseball, with Nick Niarchos closing the Panthers night on the bump with a perfect eighth inning.
The Purple & White provided their second run of the night in the top half of the ninth, with Zayicek reaching for the third, and final time, on a one-out double to left center. Pinch-hitting for the ninth spot in the lineup, fellow freshman Brady Pearre traded places with Zayicek on his double down the left field line. The evening ended on a single from Ryan Russell however, as Pearre was called out at home for the final play of the night.
>> Every spot in the Panther’s order reached base safely on Friday, with Millwee and Travis Holt extending their current on base streaks to 15
>> KJ Wells struck out three of the seven batters he faced on the night, keeping the Eagles hitless through his 1.2 IP of work
>> With Zayicek responsible for a pair of two-baggers, HPU tallied a season-high four doubles on the night collectively
COMING UP NEXT
High Point starts game two of its series with Winthrop at 3 PM this Saturday, with Harrison Smith expected to start on the hill. The last time Smith pitched in his home state of South Carolina, he tossed a complete game, in a 4-2 victory over USC Upstate.