RADFORD, Va. – High Point University baseball’s offense came alive in its series opener against Radford, but the Panthers’ 12 hits were not enough to overcome the Highlanders in a 10-7 loss in game one.
In a contest that had three lead changes, the Panthers were the first to strike on Thursday, driving in a pair of runs on four hits in the opening frame. Batting leadoff, freshman Brady Pearre started the inning off with a walk, before a double from Travis Holt scored the outfielder from first base. The sophomore would come home just two at bats later on a Joe Johnson single to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage into the bottom half, but would see their early lead dwindle on a four-run frame from the hosting Highlanders.
With starter Harrison Smith facing one over the minimum during his final three innings of work, the Purple & White managed to retake their lead in the fifth, thanks in part to freshman AJ Holcomb’s fourth homer of 2019. Fellow first-year Evan Bergman kicked off the frame with an ambush double before Holcomb sent a two-run shot over the left field fence to tie things up. Pearre would reach for the second time on Thursday on a double later in the inning, before coming home on Holt’s second RBI-knock of the afternoon.
Trailing 5-4, the Highlanders were able to even the score in the fifth on a solo shot to left, forcing the Panthers to retake the lead for a second time in the following inning. Sam Zayicek and Holcomb opened the top of the sixth with back-to-back singles before a sac bunt from senior Conner Dunbar put a pair in scoring position with just a single out on the board.
Some head’s up base running would put HPU back out in front, as Pearre made his way to first on a third strike wild pitch, while Zayicek was able to cross home for the go ahead during the at bat. With runners on the corners, Pearre bated the Radford catcher into throwing to second on an attempted steal, as Holcomb came across for a two-run Panther advantage.
Coming on in relief during the final out of the fifth, righty Grey Lyttle struck out three of the first four batters he faced before Radford went ahead on a grand slam in the seventh. The home club made it a three-run differential in the eighth, giving the Panthers a final shot at tying things up in the top half of inning number nine.
Collecting his second hit of the night on a single to left, Pearre moved to second on Holt’s third knock in the ensuing at bat. With two outs in the frame, Ryan Russell drew a hit by pitch in his pinch hitting appearance, but was picked off at first to end the evening at a final of 10-7.
>> With four Panther freshmen listed in the starting lineup this Thursday, Pearre, Zayicek, Holcomb and Bergman combined for seven of their team’s 12 knocks on the night
>> Going 3-for-4 at the plate, Holt registered his eighth multi-hit performance of his last 12 appearances; he’s averaged .463 since April 20th
>> Joe Johnson finished his night 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Holt and Pearre each collected a base on balls as well
>> With four doubles and four homers, Holcomb’s slugging percentage now stands at .548 for the season
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers face game two against Radford this Friday at 7 PM, with senior Matt Hodges expected to get the start on the mound for the Purple & White. With Presbyterian’s loss to Charleston Southern this Thursday, the Panthers can still reach a fourth seed in the approaching Big South tournament.
Panthers get a No. 4 Seed if:
HPU wins its final two games AND Presbyterian loses another game to CSU
High Point wins one of its final two games with Radford AND Presbyterian loses both of its games against CSU AND Gardner-Webb loses one of its final two games against UNC Asheville