Site: Greenville, N.C. (Clark-LeClair Stadium)
Score: #13 Ole Miss 6, High Point 2
W: Doug Nikhazy (2-1) L: Harrison Smith (2-1)
Records: OM 8-1, HPU 5-5
Next HPU Event: Saturday, Feb. 29 — vs. Indiana (Keith LeClair Classic, Greenville, N.C.), Noon
GREENVILLE, N.C. – High Point University’s baseball team gave No. 13-ranked Ole Miss a run for its money in a 6-2 loss in the opening game of the Keith LeClair Classic on Friday (Feb. 28). The Panthers outhit the Rebels and HPU did not commit a single error in the game for the first time this season.
“This was the cleanest ballgame we’ve played all year,” head coach Craig Cozart said following the game. “We outhit them and we didn’t make any errors but Ole Miss is a really good baseball team. We were right there but just couldn’t break through. This was more of our style of baseball and if we continue to play like this the rest of the year we’re going to do some good things.”
Ole Miss got on the board early, hitting a two-run shot to right-center in the top of the first. Senior starter Harrison Smith settled down after that, not giving up another hit until the fifth inning and racking up five strikeouts through four.
It took until the bottom of the fourth for the Panthers to get a man on base, and it was the team leader in hits, Travis Holt, breaking up the no-hit bid with a single to left. Holt wasn’t able to advance into scoring position, as he was caught stealing second to end the inning.
The Rebels scored one more in the fifth on a sac fly to extend their lead to 3-0 before Smith ended the inning with his sixth strikeout of the day, stranding one runner. That was the final inning of Smith’s day, leaving after surrendering three runs on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts over 94 pitches in five innings.
High Point got on the board in the fifth with a two-run inning to cut the deficit to just one. Freshman Cole Singsank started the inning off with a single to the gap in center and sophomore Evan Bergman was hit by a pitch for the fifth time this season to put runners on first and second. The Panthers loaded the bases when Trent Harris drew a walk and Singsank and Bergman came around to score on a single through the left side of the infield from freshman Adam Stuart.
Ole Miss quickly got the two runs back in the top half of the sixth, forcing HPU to go through three different pitchers in the inning. High Point tried to answer in the bottom half of the inning, but Joe Johnson was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. He hit a two-out double to right to reach and was on the move when Singsank made contact to the left side in the next at bat.
The Rebels’ shortstop made a tough play to stop the ball but his throw to first on the base hit was errant, allowing Johnson to take third. The senior tried to catch the defense off guard in the confusion of the throw but the first baseman was able to find the ball and throw home with plenty of time to get Johnson at the plate.
The bottom of the seventh started similar to the fifth for the Panthers, with Bergman singling up the middle and Sam Zayicek getting hit by a pitch. That’s where the similarities between the innings ended as HPU was retired on three straight outs to strand two.
Freshman Mason Kearney came in to pitch in the top of the seventh and was quite effective, getting five straight outs on just 22 pitches. Classmate Josh Topper was called on to get the final out of the eighth and did just that, getting his second strikeout of the season to end the inning.
Ole Miss added one more in the top of the ninth, advancing runners around with back-to-back groundouts to first to push the lead to four runs, 6-2. High Point started the bottom of the ninth with a bloop single from Bergman that fell between the center fielder and right fielder but a flyout to center and a double play ended the rally before it could get started.
HPU is back in action at the Keith LeClair Classic tomorrow (Feb. 29) when the Panthers take on Indiana at noon. High Point then wraps up the weekend with host East Carolina on Sunday (March 1) at 3:30 p.m. before returning home for an eight-game homestand at Williard Stadium.