CLINTON, S.C. – After dropping game one of its series at Presbyterian, High Point University baseball came back with a doubleheader sweep this Saturday, to clinch the series in Clinton. The Panthers’ victories secure their fourth Big South series win of 2019, as they move to 10-8 in conference play and get the better of the Blue Hose for a fourth straight meeting.
HPU started the day with a 4-2 victory before beating PC by a difference of 5-4 in game two. Both sides were forced to battle the elements, as well as one another, as the Panthers out-hit the Blue Hose 24-14 on cold and rainy mid afternoon. Sophomore Travis Holt led all hitters competing at PC Baseball Complex this Saturday, finishing 7-for-10 (.700) at the plate, with a pair of doubles and two home runs.
“I thought our approach at the plate was good,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “It was nice to see Holt get a couple of home runs today, that was awesome. JJ Woodard hit the big home run that ended up being the game-winner in game one. We out-hit them in both games, so I’m hopeful that if we continue to stack hits together like we are, that we’re going to start scoring runs in bunches, because that definitely didn’t happen this weekend. But give the guys credit. I challenged them Thursday night after the game to play with more toughness, and more hardness, and to come on the road and win a doubleheader in tough weather conditions against a really good Presbyterian team, I give them credit.
The Panthers surrendered a lead to their hosts for the second day in a row, with the Blue Hose going ahead by a pair in the bottom half of the second. Both sides recorded five knocks in the opening four innings, before the Purple & White tied things at two apiece in the fifth.
Following an Evan Bergman walk, Travis Holt sent his fourth home run of the year over the left field wall on his second hit of the afternoon, knotting the score at 2-2 going into the sixth.
The Panthers used the long ball once again later in the contest, scoring a pair of go aheads on JJ Woodard’s two-run shot in the seventh. Junior Ryan Russell delivered a two-out single to get on base ahead of Woodard, before the first baseman put his side ahead on the fifth homer of his senior campaign.
Junior right-hander Joe Johnson worked 6.1 innings on the mound, on the way to recording his fourth straight winning decision. Johnson surrendered just two runs off of six hits and three walks, while striking out five Blue Hose batters on the afternoon. The pitcher/designated hitter went 2-for-5 at the plate as well, as he Russell, Woodard and Holt all had multi-knock performances in game one.
Grey Lyttle recorded the final eight outs of the contest after inheriting bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. Just two days removed from his series opener start on Thursday, Lyttle faced the minimum during his time on the bump, striking out four of the eight batters he faced for his third save of the season, as the Panthers earned the 4-2 win.
The Panthers got behind the eight-ball once again in Saturday’s series finale, with Presbyterian hitting a solo shot off the very first pitch of the bottom of the first. It wouldn’t take long for HPU to respond however, with the lead changing hands in the second, off a pair of RBI knocks from seniors Conner Dunbar and Nick Niarchos.
After Woodard took an HBP early in the frame, the Panthers rallied for five straight hits in the succeeding at bats, with Woodard scoring on Dunbar’s double down the right field line. Niarchos followed up with a single to right, as the visiting side would take a one-run lead into the third.
The Panthers expanded their lead in the top of the fifth on Holt’s second dinger of the afternoon. The sophomore sent another long ball to left field for a solo home run, his third hit of the contest, and his fifth on the day.
“I think [Holt] finally took a little pressure off himself,” said Coach Cozart. “I think he’s been pressing a little bit. He and I had a conversation before the games today and I think he just lightened up a little bit. He got great results because of it. He’s not a guy that really plays well when he’s really tense, he’s a guy that plays well when he’s out there relaxed and enjoying what’s going on, and he had a huge day for us in both games…”
PC completed the third lead change of the game in the bottom of the seventh, as a three-run home run put the hosting team ahead by a count of 4-3.
Back a run heading to the ninth, Evan Bergman drew a five-pitch walk in his at bat before advancing to third on a Daniel Millwee single. The senior advanced to second on a catcher’s indifference to put a pair of runners in scoring position in the final out of the frame. Joe Johnson responded to the RBI opportunity by putting a ball into play in the direction of the second baseman, hustling down the line to force an arid throw from the PC infielder and allow HPU to plate both the tying and go ahead runs unearned.
Striking out a pair in the bottom half of the ninth, sophomore righty Jacob Winger tossed a perfect frame to complete his third win of the season, as the Panthers completed the doubleheader sweep on a 5-4 victory.
“I’ve got to touch on the defense today. We played tremendous defense…,” said Cozart. “Our pitching was really good this weekend. Joe [Johnson] and [Andrew] Gottfried were both really good in their starting roles and Grey Lyttle was awesome in game one closing out. And [Jacob] Winger gave up a lead, but came back out and got it done. The team has a lot of confidence in him, and I’m really proud of the guys figuring out a way to win the series after losing what wasn’t a very good representation of what we’re capable of doing on Thursday.”
>> Holt finished 7-for-10 on Saturday with a pair of doubles and two homers, while driving in three runs overall
>> Recording a single in both of Saturday’s doubleheader matchups, Millwee extended his current hitting streak to eight games and his on base streak to 24
>> Johnson collected three knocks on Saturday to finish the series 5-for-14 (.357), while Dunbar went 4-or-10 (.400) with a pair of walks over the course of the series in Clinton
>> Johnson has earned a win in each of his last four starts on the bump, three of which were quality starts
>> Andrew Gottfried held the Blue Hose to a single run over his five innings of work on Saturday, he’s holding an ERA of 1.96 since March 24th
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers will forego a midweek matchup in the coming days, refocusing for another Big South series matchup with UNC Asheville this coming Friday through Sunday. HPU has gone 16-2 against the Bulldogs in their last six series, dating back to 2013.