HPU Baseball Panthers Make History To Advance In Big South Tournament

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – No. 6 High Point University baseball made history against No. 4 Presbyterian on Thursday, defeating the Blue Hose by a final count of 15-4. Right-hander Muhammed Eid tossed the Panthers’ third consecutive complete game while junior designated hitter Joe Johnson delivered a six-hit performance on the night. HPU’s victory over PC marks the first time the squad has had three straight CG performances in Division I program history, while Johnson’s hit-total ties the single-game Panther record in the D1 era.

“The guys did it again,” said head Coach Craig Cozart. “They played clean baseball and the bats showed up in a huge way up and down the lineup. Joe Johnson went 6-for-6 which ties a school record and is the first time that’s happened since I’ve been a part of this program. We scored 15 runs on 16 hits and then Muhammed [Eid] had the complete game. What those guys have done to step up with three consecutive complete games, I’ve never had that happen in my career, over 22 years of coaching college baseball. They put us into a really good position to continue what we need to do.”

High Point University went behind the eight-ball early, ceding a pair of runs during the opening frame, but would see starting pitcher Muhammed Eid respond properly over the following eight, ultimately giving up just three earned runs in the first CG of his career. Spraying seven PC hits over the course of the contest, Eid surrendered just two bases on balls against the Blue Hose batters, on the way to a lifetime-best eight strikeouts.

“I had a long first inning and I would have never imagined I would go nine innings after that first one, but I just grinded through and got better as I went,” said Eid postgame. “The changeup started to work more consistently, the slider came through and my fastball actually felt like the velocity went up as the game went on, and my defense played outstanding behind me.”

The righty gave up just two base runners from the fourth through eighth innings, collecting six of his eight Ks during that span alone. The junior completed his nine-inning performance on 136 pitches, and secures the Panthers’ spot in another elimination game this Friday, against the winner of the No. 2 Radford and No. 7 Charleston Southern matchup.

“I’ve never been part of something like this,” said Eid. “In a tournament setting those complete games are a dream come true and that three in a row is unbelievable. We’re really loaded [as a pitching staff] for what’s coming up in these next three games.”

After recording his first knock of the night in the first, Johnson received his first RBI-opportunity during the third, following up a two-out single from Brady Pearre and a walk from Travis Holt with a single up the middle. Advancing to second on a Daniel Millwee hit by pitch, Johnson came home in the following at bat, as junior outfielder Ryan Russell drove in the junior DH and Travis Holt for a pair of runs.

Trailing by a count of 3-2 the Blue Hose tied things in the bottom half of the inning, scoring an unearned run after a dropped ball in foul territory earlier in the frame.

The rest of the night belonged solely to the Panthers with Johnson scoring a go ahead run in the fifth. The Benson, N.C. native reached on his third single of the afternoon before stealing second and crossing home plate on Millwee’s knock to center.

Both sides remained in a stale mate up until the top of the eighth, where the No. 6 Panthers exploded for seven hits and nine runs. Three straight singles from Johnson, Millwee and Russell loaded the bases while a Sam Zayicek knock through the left side gave the Purple & White four hits to open the inning.

A pair of bases loaded walks, sandwiched around a fielder’s choice RBI from senior Conner Dunbar put HPU ahead 8-3, with Johnson driving in two more runs on his fifth single of the evening. With a seven-run advantage, Millwee stepped in the box with a pair of runners on the corners, going on to deliver his eighth homer of the year to left field.

The backstop delivered a three-run shot to put the Panthers ahead 13-3, while bringing his RBI-count to a contest-best four on the night. Millwee has hit in all four of High Point’s contests in the postseason, going 7-for-17 (.412) overall, tying his single-game career-high for runs driven in against the Blue Hose.

HPU wrapped up their offensive night in the visiting half of the ninth, with AJ Holcomb coming across on a Brady Pearre single and JJ Woodard scoring on a Holt single. The final score would read 15-4 in favor of the Panthers on Thursday night, with the side setting a season-high in runs, and tying a campaign-best in hits (16).

>> Johnson recorded two of his hits in the seventh inning alone, with the Panthers sending 13 batters to plate in the frame
>> Millwee had two knocks in the seventh as well, driving in three of his four runs on the night during that time
>> Four Panthers drove in multiple runs on Thursday, with Johnson and Millwee combining for seven of their team’s 15 RBI
>> Every Panther in the lineup crossed home plate against PC, with Johnson scoring a game-high four runs

No. 6 HPU will play a 4 PM contest on Friday against the winner of the No. 2 Radford and No. 7 Charleston Southern competition being played this Thursday night. The Panthers took two of three from the Bucs earlier this year, and one of three against the Highlanders.