Site: Durham, N.C. (Durham Athletic Park)
Score: High Point 10, North Carolina Central 7
Records: HPU: 4-0, NCCU: 0-4
W: Muhammed Eid (1-0), L: Jonathan Peacock (0-1) S: Jacob Winger (1)
Next HPU Event: Wednesday, Feb. 19 — at No. 19 North Carolina (Chapel Hill, N.C.), 3 p.m.
DURHAM, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team continued its hot start to the 2020 campaign, staying undefeated with a 10-7 victory over North Carolina Central University Tuesday evening (Feb. 18). Senior Muhammed Eid got the start on the mound and picked up his first win of the season, while classmate Joe Johnson had a big game with three RBIs.
“Midweek games can sometimes be an adventure but our guys showed a lot of tenacity tonight,” head coach Craig Cozart had to say. “After going down 5-1 through two innings we really answered the call offensively. Adam Stuart had a big night with his first career home run and Joe Johnson added his second homer of the season while driving in three. Trent Harris and Jacob Winger did a nice job on the mound in relief. We are very proud of our guys to be 4-0 heading into Chapel Hill tomorrow.”
N.C. Central struck in the first inning, just three batters into the game. With a runner on first, the Eagles’ three-hitter put a double into the gap in left to get the hosts on the board.
The lead didn’t last long, as High Point was able to knot things up in the bottom of the inning.
Reigning Big South Player of the Week Sam Zayicek walked with one out and came around to score one batter later when Justin Ebert put one to the wall in left-center to plate Zayicek and take second with a double.
The Eagles came back out in the bottom of the second and mounted a four-run rally with two outs. A pair of walks put runners on first and second and one came around to score on the first hit of the inning right after, putting runners on second and third after the ball was bobbled in the outfield. Both scored on a single to right, and that batter came around to score on a ground-rule double after stealing second.
High Point countered with a two-run third, kicking things off with a home run. Stuart led off the inning and took the second pitch he saw over the fence in left to make it a three-run game with his first collegiate hit. Brady Pearre followed the homer up with a double down the left-field line. He took third on a wild pitch and came home when Johnson grounded out to short.
The Panthers took the lead in the next inning, scoring five in the fourth. A hit batter, a walk, and a single loaded the bases and Evan Bergman came in to score when a wild pitch got away from the NCCU catcher. That brought Blake Sutton up and the freshman singled to left field to bring home Zayicek and Ebert to give HPU its first lead of the game.
The big inning continued when Saturday’s walk-off hero Travis Holt replicated his game-winning hit, ripping one past the third baseman and down the line to score Pearre. Holt reached third on a balk and took the final 90 feet when Johnson singled to right for his second RBI of the game to make it 8-5, Panthers.
N.C. Central did more damage with two outs in the bottom half of the fifth, getting one run back. Eid struck out the first two batters of the inning to make it three straight Ks before giving up a double off the wall in left. The runner came around to score on an error at the next at bat but a soft liner to Holt at short ended the inning and Eid’s day. The senior allowed five earned runs on seven hits and struck out seven – one shy of his career-best – in his 2020 debut.
Harris came in to pitch after Eid and gave up a walk as his only baserunner before ending the inning with a strikeout. HPU tacked on another run to make it 9-6 before it was time to stretch when Johnson went yard to lead off the top of the seventh, his second homer of the season and third RBI of the game, matching his career-high.
The Eagles continued to make things tough for the Panthers, making it a two-run game once again in the bottom half of the seventh. A lead-off single advanced to second on a groundout to short and then came around to score on two wild pitches.
The Purple and White continued to have an answer for the hosts, getting the run right back in the eighth. Stuart hit a double off the wall in left, just feet away from having his second home run of the day. He then took third and came home the same way NCCU’s last run did, advancing on a pair of wild pitches to give High Point a three-run lead again, 10-7.
Harris retired the side in order in the eighth and HPU only got a runner as far as second in the top of the ninth, setting up Winger to come on for the save. Winger became the first High Point pitcher to appear in multiple games this season, as he pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in the 10th for the win in the extra-inning game against Lafayette on Saturday (Feb. 15).
Winger got the job done for his first save of the season, picking up his third strikeout of the year as well. The win pushes the Panthers to 4-0 on the season, the best start HPU has had since joining Division I in 2000.
High Point is back on the diamond tomorrow (Feb. 19), traveling back to the Triangle to face No. 19 North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill at 3 p.m.