HPU Baseball Panthers Secure Sixth Straight Win On Tuesday

ELON, N.C. – High Point University baseball wins its sixth straight contest this Tuesday, holding Elon University to just four hits in a 6-2 midweek win. On the mound the duo of Matt Hodges and KJ Wells kept the Phoenix to just a single earned run on the night, while freshman Brady Pearre went deep on an evening the Panthers collected 11 knocks in all.

“Pearre has really had a special four days here with his second home run in the past three games,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “He’s been a real treat at the top of the lineup and then [JJ] Woodard has been working really hard. He came out early today for extra batting practice and it paid off. He hit the ball really hard, got a couple of big hits for us, including the first of the game. You like to see guys get rewarded for putting in time and he’s definitely done that.”

After putting just two runners on through the first three innings of play, the Panthers opened the night’s scoring with a pair of runs in the fourth. Travis Holt and Joe Johnson led off the top half with back-to-back singles before moving into scoring position on a groundout in the following at bat. Center fielder Ryan Russell delivered the RBI knock to bring in the two base runners, slotting a ball through the middle to drive in his third and fourth runs of the previous four games.

Making the first start of his career at High Point, left-hander Matt Hodges tossed a gem against the Phoenix, with the home team’s two runs in the bottom of the fourth standing as the only two marks against him over 5.0 innings of work. Just one of the two Elon runs scored on Hodges would go down as earned as the lefty kept the home side hitless through his first three frames on the bump. The Tuesday night starter gave up his first two knocks of the game in the fourth before a Panther defensive error extended the bottom half, finishing his night with five strikeouts, while facing just four over the minimum. Hodges earned the eighth win of his career and his second of the season to improve his record to 8-1 during his four years at High Point, while his 92 pitches set a new career-high.

“I’m really proud of Hodges’ effort,” said Coach Cozart. “He just went out there and showed the maturity of a senior. He pitched to contact a lot, got key strikeouts in big situations and to get five complete innings in his first career start was pretty special. I’m proud of him.”

Johnson drove in his first run of the night in the fifth, with what would prove to be the game winner. With JJ Woodard collecting his second knock of the night, the first baseman was backed up by a hit by pitch from fellow senior Conner Dunbar, eventually moving to third on an Elon error. Woodard crossed home for his team’s third run of the contest on Johnson’s groundout, taking a one-run advantage into the fifth.

Extending his hitting streak to six games, freshman Brady Pearre doubled HPU’s lead in the seventh, sending the first pitch of his at bat over the left field wall for the second homer of his past three appearances. Pearre earned Big South Freshman of the Week honors this past Monday after going 5-for-10 with a double and a dinger in the first two games of the Panthers’ series with UNC Asheville, as he’s got eight RBI in his past four games.

Taking the hill in the sixth, freshman righty KJ Wells had a career night against the Phoenix, securing the final 12 outs of the contest for the first save of his career. In addition to delivering the longest outing of his career (4.0 IP), Wells struck out a personal best six batters on the night, while keeping Elon to just two walks and a pair of singles. Both he and Hodges were able to work around a pair of Panther errors on the night, as the two HPU arms stranded seven Phoenix base runners.

“That’s been a point of emphasis for us, because things are going to happen behind you,” said Coach Cozart. “We went through a period of time where errors and walks were absolutely killing us. We talked as a team and as a pitching staff about stepping up and making better pitches when those situations happen behind you, and eliminating those scoring threats. That’s what good team’s do and we’ve done that in the last few weeks, and we’re getting better results because of it.”

With Hodges and Wells stymieing the Phoenix offense, the Panthers took advantage in the ninth, putting another two runs on the board with two hits and another Elon defensive error. Pearre reached first early on in the inning with a seven-pitch walk, followed up by Holt’s second single of the night, eventually reaching third and crossing home on an error from the Phoenix outfield. Millwee would drive in the final run of the night on a foul territory sac fly, as Holt crossed home to place the final score at 6-2.

>> With Millwee’s knock in the seventh he extends his on base streak to 28 straight games, he’s reached safely in all but a single game this year
>> Pearre has hit .393 on his current hit streak, with 11 of his 15 hits on the year coming in that span
>> Holt is on a six-game hitting streak of his own, averaging .571 during that span, with three doubles and pair of home runs
>> Four Panthers collected multiple knocks against the Phoenix on Tuesday, with Russell delivering a game-high two RBI

The Panthers turn around for their fifth game in as many days, taking on Wake Forest at home this Wednesday at Williard. HPU fell to the Demon Deacons earlier this year by a final of 14-9, looking to split their series with Wake Forest for a third straight year with a win at home this midweek.