Fifth Inning Dooms High Point University Baseball in Loss to UNCG

Site: High Point, N.C. (Williard Stadium)
Score: UNCG 11, High Point 3
W: Phillip Sanderson (2-1), L: Josh Topper (0-1)
Records: UNCG 12-4, HPU 7-9
Next HPU Event: Friday, March 13 — vs. USC Upstate (Williard Stadium, High Point, N.C.), 4 p.m.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team wanted to test some of its options in the bullpen before conference play, throwing 10 different pitchers in an 11-3 loss to UNCG Tuesday afternoon (March 10). A big fifth inning for the Spartans that saw them score eight runs spelled the Panthers’ demise and it was coupled with HPU stranding 13 runners on base in the game, the second-most the Purple and White have left on the basepaths this season.

“We played really good offense in the first third of the game,” head coach Craig Cozart said afterward. “If you give up eight runs in an inning you don’t give yourself much of a chance to win. I’m also disappointed with the fact that we left 13 guys on base. We had opportunities early and the game changes when you get involved early and can put some of the pressure to the other side of the field.”

Jimmy Curley got the start on the mound for High Point and the freshman pitched an effective first inning, walking the first batter he faced but recovered with a flyout to right and inducing an inning-ending double play. The Panthers threatened in the bottom half of the inning, putting runners on the corners when Joe Johnson singled up the middle to move Travis Holt 90 feet away from the plate. Johnson took second to put two runners in scoring position but a groundout to second ended the threat.

UNCG broke the seal in the second inning, getting the first run of the game with two outs thanks to a single that scored a runner from second after he reached on an error and took second on a wild pitch. After the Panthers went down in order in the bottom of the inning, the visitors doubled their lead with small ball, doubling to lead-off the inning and advancing the runner to third with a sac bunt before scoring him with a single to center.

High Point threatened again in the bottom of the fourth, putting runners on the corners once again, this time with nobody out. Evan Bergman reached on an error by the UNCG second baseman and advanced to third when Sam Zayicek singled through the right side of the infield. Adam Stuart laid down a bunt for the safety squeeze and put it in a perfect location but the charging first baseman made it in time to scoop the ball and toss it to the catcher to get Bergman at the plate. Stuart and Zayicek both advanced into scoring position when starting catcher Blake Sutton grounded out to first but another ground out stranded runners in scoring position yet again.

The Spartans blew the game wide open in the fifth, scoring eight in the inning that saw three different Panthers on the mound to lead 10-0. HPU responded with the lead-off batter in the bottom of the fifth, as Brady Pearre hit his conference-leading fourth home run of the season on the first pitch to get the Purple and White on the board.

The score remained 10-1 until the bottom of the seventh when High Point got two more runs after UNCG went to its bullpen. Three singles in the first four batters of the inning loaded the bases and Holt came around to score when Stuart was hit by a pitch. Justin Ebert entered the game as a pinch hitter and sent one deep enough to score Bergman on the sacrifice fly, High Point’s eighth as a team this season – the most among Big South teams.

UNCG scored one more run in the top of the eighth before it was over, bringing the run home on a wild pitch. The bases were loaded at the time and the Spartans got greedy, sending the runner from second toward the plate as well, who was thrown out after Brian Rall found the ball at the backstop and fired it home in time.

High Point’s concludes this weekend (March 13-15) when the second team of Spartans this week, USC Upstate, comes to town for a three-game series to open Big South play. Then it’s on the road for five straight for the Panthers, traveling to Elon and Liberty for a pair of midweek games next week before heading to Campbell for the second conference series of the year.