HPU Baseball Panthers Deliver 10-2 Win To Open Series With UNC Asheville

HIGH POINT, N.C. – High Point University puts up double-digit runs for the third time this year, defeating UNC Asheville by a final of 10-2 to open this weekend’s series on Saturday. The Panthers out-hit the Bulldogs 11-4 on the day, with seven HPU hitters collecting knocks against UNCA, while the HPU pitching staff carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

“…We talked about that last week, about us getting a bunch of hits,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “When you get a bunch of hits, you hope it comes with a bunch of runs and today the runs showed up. It was huge to get off to a good start to the first inning. [Brady] Pearre was a shot in the arm at the top of the lineup with three hits and a couple RBI. Joe Johnson had a couple RBI as well, so I think it was more of what we have been seeing from our offense, and it was nice to see us put up double-digit runs. When you get into position to take control in game one, that’s always a good thing, and I’m glad that we did that.”

The Panthers’ offense was hot out of the gate on Saturday, batting through the order in the first inning for the second time this season. Freshman Brady Pearre got things started with a leadoff single, before a late throw on a fielder’s choice and a hit by pitch loaded the bases for Joe Johnson. The junior DH delivered an infield single RBI to put the Panthers’ first run on the board, followed by a fielding error from the Bulldogs third baseman to make things 2-0.

Evan Bergman recorded a bases loaded HBP to bring the difference to three runs, with Nick Niarchos driving in another Panther run on a single through the right side. Senior Conner Dunbar tallied a sac fly in the following at bat, before Pearre delivered his second knock of the frame to give the home team a 6-0 lead going into the second.

Despite the Panthers’ offensive outburst, the story of the day was on the mound, as starter Harrison Smith tossed a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Shutting out the Bulldogs through the 6.2 innings of work, Smith finished the afternoon with eight strikeouts while throwing a career-high 127 pitches in the contest.

“He had a really good mix going today,” said Cozart, commenting on Smith’s performance. “The fastball played lively, he was able to drop his slider in when he needed to, and he elevated the strike zone well. You have to give [Daniel] Millwee credit, he called all the pitches and they just got into a nice rhythm today, and to throw 6.2 innings of no hit baseball on the opening game of a series is pretty special.”

Pearre added the Panthers’ seventh run on his third knock of the afternoon, driving in teammate JJ Woodard on a single to center. The Purple & White wrapped up their scoring in the fourth with Millwee leading off the frame on a five-pitch walk. Ryan Russell drove in the senior backstop with his third triple of the season, before crossing home himself on Johnson’s ensuing single.

The UNC Asheville offense was kept hitless into the eighth inning, before a solo home run broke up the HPU no-hit bid. Smith’s performance was his third quality start of the year, as the junior combined with relief arms Cooper Jeffers, Garrett Letchworth and Jack Nathan for nine strikeouts on the day.

The Panthers’ finished game one with a 10-2 win to deliver the squad’s seventh victory in their past eight Big South matchups. HPU has now beaten the Bulldogs in 18 of their past 20 meetings, and improves to 11-8 in conference-play for 2019.

>> Pearre’s three knocks were a career-high for the freshman, catapulting his season batting average 47 points to .314 on the year
>> Millwee’s walk extends the senior’s on base streak to 25, as he’s reached first in all but one game in 2019
>> Russell’s three-bagger gives the junior nine extra-base hits on the year, he’s slugged .615 over the past six contests
>> Niarchos’ two hits tie the senior’s single game career-high, as he’s batting .556 over his past three starts

The Panthers matchup with UNC Asheville for game two this Sunday at 1 PM, with Johnson expected to get the start on the bump. Johnson is currently on a four-game winning streak, collecting quality starts in three of those appearances.