FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – No. 6 High Point University baseball is set to compete in a Big South Tournament elimination game this Wednesday at 7:30 PM after falling to No. 3 Winthrop by a final of 4-1. Panther starter Matt Hodges tossed a complete game during the Purple & White’s losing effort against the Eagles, while freshman Brady Pearre recorded his third homer of the past five games.
“…I just figured, why not just make them hit?” said Hodges postgame. “Just throw it at them and make them hit. I saw early that they were sitting on any off-speed pitch I threw so I called [senior catcher Daniel] Millwee over and told him ‘they’re not going to hit a fastball if we throw it.’ So we kind of stuck with that throughout the rest of the game and it worked for us.”
Throwing a career-high 131 pitches during his 8.0 innings of work, Hodges struck out five batters in the opening three innings, finishing with a total of seven on the afternoon. The lefty surrendered a single run in the opening frame while spraying 12 Winthrop hits over the course of his performance, keeping the Panthers’ opponents to just three earned runs on the day and stranding 11 WU base runners.
“Give credit to Matt Hodges today,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “I challenged some of our players to step up and he pitched with conviction and did what he had to do to keep us within a swing of tying this game up. He surpassed his career-high pitch count by a huge margin with 131, and did what we needed from him going forward in this Big South Tournament.”
After going hitless in their first three offensive frames, Travis Holt recorded HPU’s first knock of the afternoon on a single through the left side in the fourth before drawing a walk later in the sixth. Holt’s base on balls came immediately after a two-out single from freshman Brady Pearre, but both potential runs were left stranded in the Panthers’ first RBI opportunity of the afternoon.
The Purple & White would get another scoring opportunity in the seventh, as Daniel Millwee delivered an ambush single to open the frame before getting erased on a Winthrop double play to end the inning.
Down four runs going into the ninth, Pearre put HPU back within striking range, leading off the frame with a solo shot to left. The first-year’s jack was his fifth of the season, putting him just two shy of the team-high seven homers Millwee has accrued over the 2019 campaign. Three of Pearre’s long balls have come in his past five appearances alone, as he’s driven in six runs and averaged .474 since High Point’s series against Radford the previous weekend.
Despite taking the losing decision, Hodges recorded his second straight quality start on Wednesday, as he’s delivered a 1.83 ERA since making the first start of his career against Elon back on March 30th. The southpaw has struck out 17 batters over that timeframe, and now holds a 3-1 record on the year.
“…I’m honestly glad that [Coach Cozart] had the confidence in me to let me keep going today,” said Hodges. “and I kind of used that throughout the game to fuel me and push myself to go further and try to save our bullpen. But I couldn’t have done what I did without Millwee behind the plate. He had all the confidence in me. Even when I missed a pitch he still came right back to it. He’d give me the fist pump, and that’s really encouraging and motivating for a pitcher to have someone back there like that, that’ll grind through it with you.”
>> Pearre finished with a team-high two knocks against the Winthrop pitching staff, he’s had multiple knocks in four of his team’s last five contests
>> Batting first, second and fourth in the order respectively, Pearre, Holt and Millwee accounted for all of their team’s knocks in the morning contest
>> Hodges’ complete game was the first of his four-year Panther career. He joins teammate Harrison Smith on the list of HPU arms to go the distance in 2019
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers await the announcement of their evening opponent, facing the lowest seeded loser of Big South Championship Tournament games four and five in an elimination contest. A win from No. 2 Radford over No. 7 Charleston Southern would secure an HPU and CSU rematch at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, while a Buccaneer victory would put the loser of the No. 4 Presbyterian and No. 5 Gardner-Webb matchup directly in the path of the Panthers’ journey toward a conference championship.