Site: High Point, N.C. (Williard Stadium)
Score: High Point 6, Lafayette 5
Records: HPU: 2-0, LC: 0-2
W: Jacob Winger (1-0), L: Frank Craska (0-1)
Next HPU Event: Sunday, Feb. 16 — vs. Lafayette (Williard Stadium, High Point, N.C.), 1 p.m.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team played in its first extra-inning game in 22 months in a 6-5 victory over Lafayette College in ten innings on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 15). Junior Travis Holt played the hero, getting not only the walk-off RBI single but also bringing home the tying run in the eighth, part of a four-hit, two-RBI outing.
“You’ve got to give Lafayette a ton of credit, they came ready to play today,” head coach Craig Cozart said after the game. “They came up in a huge situation with the bases loaded to take the lead on a grand slam and played a pretty clean defensive game but I give our guys credit for staying the course and remaining optimistic. Obviously, you want to get the win but you want to see the guys remain in the moment and remain competitive and maintain belief and we never wavered.”
High Point got on the board early, scoring the game’s first run on a sac fly in the bottom of the first. Brady Pearre walked to start the game and advanced to third on a single from Holt. Joe Johnson was up next and sent one deep enough to right to allow Pearre to come home.
Nick Hernandez retired the Lafayette side in order in the second to get his offense right back out there. The Panthers had runners on first and second with two outs when Pearre stepped into the batter’s box for the second time. He hit a dribbler off the end of the barrel down the first-base line that the Leopards waited to field to see if it would roll foul. It stayed to the left of the chalk to give Pearre his only hit of the game. With two outs at the time of the play, Sam Zayicek rounded third and headed for home but was thrown out when the catcher scooped up the ball and tossed it back to the third baseman covering the plate to keep HPU’s lead at 1-0.
The Panthers were able to do some more damage in the third after Hernandez picked up the first two strikeouts of his High Point career in the top half of the inning. HPU had runners on second and third with one out when Justin Ebert hit the Purple and White’s second sacrifice fly of the game to right field for his second RBI in as many games. Holt scored on the sac and Johnson moved up to third, scoring on the next play when Zayicek singled to left.
The lead didn’t last long, as LC changed the momentum of the game with one swing in the fourth. Hernandez got into some trouble, walking the leadoff batter and then giving up a single. The runners advanced an extra base after an error on the throw in from left field, putting runners on second and third with one out. Hernandez’s day was done after walking the next batter, leaving after three and one-third innings pitched and the bases loaded.
Grey Lyttle entered the ballgame in relief of Hernandez and gave up a grand slam over the wall in left to give the Leopards the lead. Lyttle was able to recover and struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning, part of a career-tying seven punchouts for the senior in his 2020 debut.
Lafayette picked up another one in the fifth after Lyttle gave up a single that advanced to second on a wild pitch and then scored on another single after that. That pushed LC’s lead to two, 5-3, and the Leopards entered the sixth with five hits. That would be all the hits the visitors would get in the game, with High Point’s pitching getting the job done the rest of the game, surrendering no more hits and only issuing two walks.
Garrett Letchworth came in to pitch in the top of the eighth after Lyttle surrendered a walk on his 75th pitch of the outing. Letchworth shut Lafayette’s offense down, getting a double play in his first batter and then a strikeout to get to the bottom of the eighth.
The Panthers clawed their way back in the eighth, tying up the game with two outs in the inning. Trent Harris drew a one-out walk and made it to third on a throwing error by the pitcher. Cole Singsank sent a screamer back up the middle that careened off the hurler’s glove and towards second. The pitcher dove to the ball and made a desperation throw over to first. Singsank beat the throw regardless and the pitcher’s effort was errant, getting by the first baseman and allowing both runners to advance into scoring position. Harris came around to score when Pearre hit one out to left for HPU’s third sac fly of the game and Harris knotted the ballgame up with a double down the right-field line.
Letchworth was just as effective in the ninth, only letting one baserunner reach due to a fielding error by the Panthers. HPU went three-up, three-down in the bottom half of the ninth and the Purple and White entered extra innings for the first time since the Big South Tournament in May 2018.
Jacob Winger came in to pitch the tenth and was masterful, striking out two of the three batters he faced. Once again, the Panthers drew a walk to start the inning, and Harris advanced to second when Singsank picked up his second hit of the day on a single to left. Both runners advanced into scoring position when a pick-off attempt missed its intended target of the LC shortstop and landed in the grass in center field.
With first base open Lafayette opted to walk Pearre to load the bases, looking for a force play. Holt stepped into the batter’s box with other thoughts in mind and picked up his fourth and final hit of the day. He ripped one past the diving third-baseman into the grass in left to end the game and give HPU its first walk-off victory since May 1, 2019, when the Panthers walked-off against Wake Forest.
“Travis was huge, getting the game-tying and game-winning RBIs while going 4-6 on the day and our bullpen threw up five zeros at the end,” Cozart continued. “If Grey didn’t get us into the later innings then we can’t use our bullpen like we need to.”
High Point’s 2-0 start is its best start since the 2012 season when the Purple and White took the first two games of the year against Army, part of a 5-1 stretch to start the season. The Panthers will look for the sweep tomorrow (Feb. 16) at 1 p.m., in what would be HPU’s first-ever opening weekend sweep in its Division I history (since 2000).
After the series with Lafayette wraps up, the Panthers head to the Research Triangle for a pair of midweek games. High Point plays North Carolina Central on Tuesday (Feb. 18) and then heads to Chapel Hill to face No. 19 North Carolina on Wednesday.