FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – No. 6 High Point University baseball advances to the next round of the Big South Tournament this Wednesday, dropping No. 5 Gardner-Webb by a final of 6-2. Senior right-hander Andrew Gottfried recorded the Panthers’ second complete game performance of the day with a career-high 10 strikeouts, while junior Ryan Russell drove in a personal best four runs on the afternoon.
“We had two seniors really step up in a huge way today,” said Head Coach Craig Cozart. “Gottfried had the complete game with 10 punchouts and zero walks, the best outing of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect moment. I’m very proud of what he was capable of doing and we’re in good shape for tomorrow based on what [Matt] Hodges and Gottfried did today. We’ve got plenty of pitching left.”
“I’ll give you my little secret,” said Gottfried postgame. “It all comes down to strike one. It’s extremely important when you get ahead of hitters. You’re going to do well more times than not, so that was big for me. The cutter was working tonight. [Senior catcher Daniel] Millwee called a heck of a game. I didn’t shake him off once. He’s done unbelievable for us and every single time he goes out there he busts his butt.”
The Purple & White got hot early in the batter’s box, going ahead 1-0 in the top of the second. Freshman AJ Holcomb drew a five pitch walk before coming home for his team’s first run of the night, on Russell’s first knock of the afternoon, a double to left center.
Leading by a single run, the Panther offense exploded for five more in the fourth, with Joe Johnson and Holcomb dealing back-to-back one-out knocks in the opening stages of the frame. Senior JJ Woodard doubled his team’s lead on a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners for Russell, who took advantage of his second RBI-opportunity of the evening.
After fouling off four pitches from the Gardner-Webb starter, the junior drove a no-doubter out to left for his third jack of the 2019 campaign. Russell cleared the bases to put another three runs on the board, bringing his RBI-total to a new career-high of four on the night. The Panthers’ offensive onslaught wouldn’t end at Russell however, with senior shortstop Conner Dunbar sending a double to right, and crossing home on a Brady Pearre single down the left field line.
With some superior run support in place, Gottfried kept the Bulldog batters in a stalemate, facing the minimum through the first four innings of the Wednesday night contest. The senior righty struck out the side in the fourth to bring his K-total to five, eventually finishing the night with a career-high 10 strikeouts overall.
“Us seniors got together and collectively just told each other that we want to play one more game,” said Gottfried. “That’s what we’re going for. We’ve got a great team with a lot of resiliency. We’ve gone through a heck of a season and faced a lot of adversity, but at the end of the day we’re looking for one more game. We thank god every opportunity we get to play.”
Gottfried didn’t give up his second knock of the night until the fifth inning, stranding a single runner while facing just one over the minimum through the first two-thirds of the game. The Bulldogs put their first run on the board on three hits in the seventh, delivering their second and final score of the night in the bottom half of the ninth.
The starting right-hander sprayed seven hits over his 9.0 inning complete game performance without surrendering a single base on balls. Gottfried completed his night on 113 pitches, turning in the first CG of his career in the 6-2 final and his team’s second victory of the Big South tournament.
>> Going 3-for-4 at the plate, Russell drove in three of his team’s six runs, going a triple shy of the Panthers’ first cycle since 2009
>> Conner Dunbar collected three knocks as well, while freshman Brady Pearre extended his hit streak to six straight appearances
>> Senior catcher Daniel Millwee finished 1-for-5 against the Bulldogs, he’s hit in all three of HPU’s postseason contests this week
>> Gottfried’s complete game was his team’s second CG of the day, after fellow senior Matt Hodges went the distance in a 4-1 loss to Winthrop in the early morning
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers’ journey toward a Big South Championships title continues, with the Purple & White set to compete in their fourth game of the postseason on Thursday at 4 PM. High Point is still unsure of their opponent in day three of the conference tournament, facing the loser of a morning contest between No. 3 Winthrop and No. 4 Presbyterian in another elimination contest.