FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – No. 6 High Point University baseball continued its historic run this Friday afternoon, after winning its fourth Big South Championship tournament game of 2019 in a 6-4 final against No. 2 Radford. The victory over the Highlanders puts the Panthers’ conference tournament record at 4-1 this year, the most the program has won in its 20 years at the Division I level.
With both teams going scoreless in the opening inning, the Purple & White opened things up on the offensive end, starting the following frame with three straight hits from Daniel Millwee, Ryan Russell and Sam Zayicek. Millwee started things with a leadoff double before Russell put runners on the corners on a single to center. Zayicek worked the count full against Radford starter Brandon Donovan before dropping a single into center, giving his side the early 1-0 advantage on the first of his two hits on the night.
Russell crossed home later in the inning to give HPU the two-run advantage, after a squeeze bunt from senior JJ Woodard provided the junior with ample time to come home for his third run scored of the postseason.
The Panthers added another two runs in the fifth with senior Conner Dunbar and freshman Brady Pearre reaching on a walk and a single respectively. The pair moved over to scoring position during a passed ball in the next bat, before sophomore Travis Holt sent a single to center and Joe Johnson delivered a sac fly for his fourth RBI of the tournament.
High Point University’s pitching staff turned in yet another supreme performance with starting right-hander Jonny Vizcaino keeping the Highlanders hitless through the first three innings of play. The senior gave up his first run of the night during the fourth, but managed to strand a pair of runners while striking out the side and bringing his K-total to six in the contest.
Vizcaino would go on to tie his career-high with seven strikeouts, ceding the bump to reliever Grey Lyttle two outs into the fifth. The junior righty would inherit bases loaded in the frame but induced a lineout to second baseman Holt, going on to toss a total of 3.1 innings with two earned runs against and a single strikeout.
The Highlanders’ runs in the bottom of the fifth and the seventh pulled the second-seeded side back within a run before Russell drove in his seventh run of the postseason in the eighth. The Panthers collected two more hits from Daniel Millwee and Joe Johnson with the latter scoring on a wild pitch to give Purple & White a two-run advantage into the bottom half.
The Highlanders loaded the bases in the following frame, leading things off with a pair of singles and a walk. Lyttle recovered nicely however, forcing a fielder’s choice, a sac fly and a groundout, to minimize damage to a single run.
With Radford unable to capitalize on the scoring opportunity the door was left open for the Panthers to score an insurance run, as Conner Dunbar lifted a leadoff solo shot to right center for his third jack of the 2019 campaign. The shortstop’s homer gives HPU four dingers in this year’s tournament and set up a save opportunity for sophomore Jacob Winger on a two-run cushion.
The hard-throwing righty didn’t disappoint, working around a Highlander single to strike out the final two batters of the night and secure a 6-4 win for the Panthers.
>> With a total of 12 knocks against Radford on Friday, HPU has collected 10-plus hits in each of its last three tournament games
>> Brady Pearre finished 3-for-5 with a double, maintaining an eight-game hitting streak
>> Seven of the Panthers’ nine holes in the lineup registered hits, while Millwee, Pearre, Johnson and Zayicek each had multi-knock efforts
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers compete in their sixth straight elimination contest this Friday, taking on No. 3 Winthrop at 9:30 PM. The winner advances to the Big South Championship final Saturday against top-seeded Campbell.