Site: High Point, N.C. (Williard Stadium)
Game One Score: High Point 8, UNC Asheville 2
W: Grey Lyttle (1-2), L: Jacob Edwards (1-1), S: Carter Sheppard (1)
Game Two Score: High Point 12, UNC Asheville 6
W: Parker Dean (1-0), L: Brett Johnson (0-1)
Records: HPU 4-4 (2-0 Big South), AVL 1-6 (0-2 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Sunday, March 7 — vs. UNC Asheville (Williard Stadium, High Point, N.C.), 1 p.m.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – An offensive explosion of 20 runs in 18 innings propelled the High Point University baseball team to a pair of wins over UNC Asheville in a doubleheader on Saturday (March 6) to begin Big South Conference action 2-0.
The Panthers scored eight runs in the final four innings of game one to win 8-2 and kept the momentum going with five runs in the first two innings of the second game to take the nightcap 12-6.
Graduate student Joe Johnson had an all-around great day, going 4-9 at the plate with a home run and three RBIs, while also adding a spectacular diving catch in left field early in the second game to keep High Point in the lead. With a hit in both games, Johnson extended his hitting streak to all eight games so far this season and 15 games dating back to last year. Brady Pearre and Peyton Carr also went deep in the first game, with Pearre sending two over the fence exactly one year to the day that he accomplished the same feat last season against James Madison.
Sam Zayicek had a big game in the second contest of the day, picking up three RBIs on two extra-base hits after he doubled in the fourth and then knocked his first career triple an inning later. The catching tandem of Blake Sutton and Tyler Leach each added a double in the second game as well, with Leach’s being the first hit of his career. Altogether, eight different Panthers registered a hit in the second game, with four picking up multiple knocks.
“The first six games our offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders but it got going in a huge way today,” head coach Craig Cozart said after the game. It was great to see some guys at the bottom of the order have some production. Sam had a huge game for us, Joe did a great job, and Brady left the ballpark so it was good to see those guys get going. They’ve worked hard. It’s been a difficult beginning couple of weeks but we’ve played quality clubs. Asheville is going to come out tomorrow ready to play but to sweep a doubleheader, especially to start conference play, is tough and I’m really proud of the way the guys handled it tonight.”
High Point’s offense put up double-digit hits in both of the games today, combining for 24 on the day. It’s the fourth time in eight games the Panthers have tagged the opposition for double-digit hits and the first time doing it in back-to-back games since the first two games of last season.
Asheville got the scoring started right away, bringing a run across with a sac bunt in the first inning. High Point tried to respond in the bottom of the inning and loaded the bases with two outs but left them loaded with a foul out to third. The Bulldogs looked like they might extend their lead in the fourth, putting two runners in scoring position with one out. HPU starter Grey Lyttle was able to pitch out of the jam, getting the next batter to foul out to first and then racking up his fifth strikeout of the day to end the inning.
The Panthers responded in the bottom of the fourth, bringing one run around to tie things up. A throwing error allowed Carr to reach and then moved to third when Sutton singled to center. Cole Singsank was up next and singled to right to plate Carr, part of a 3-3 first game at the plate for Singsank.
HPU took the lead in the next inning with back-to-back homers from Pearre and Johnson, the first two of the season for the Purple and White. Pearre sent one over the wall in left-center to break the deadlock and Johnson followed it up two pitches later with an oppo-shot to left as well. High Point extended its lead in the sixth when Adam Stuart sent a deep fly ball to left that was caught but scored Sutton from third.
Lyttle meanwhile was dealing, allowing only one baserunner in each of the fifth and sixth innings. He picked up his sixth strikeout of the day to end the fifth and then added three more in the sixth for a career-high of nine in the game. He walked the only batter he faced in the seventh, finishing with a quality start of six innings pitched with eight hits and one run, one walk, and the nine strikeouts on a career-high 107 pitches for his first win of the season.
Carter Sheppard came on to relieve Lyttle and sat down the first three batters he faced in the seventh to allow the Panthers’ offense to come back up and pad the lead. This time it was Carr doing the honors deep, hitting a high fly ball down the line in left that just barely stayed fair with Cameron Irvine on second for the two-run homer – the first of the freshman’s career.
Asheville got one back in the eighth inning but that was the last of its offense as Sheppard shut the side down with two more strikeouts in the final four outs. HPU’s bats weren’t done yet, as Pearre came up and clobbered one over the wall in left-center to score himself and Zayicek and get the Panthers to eight on the game and give Sheppard the first save of his career.
The Bulldogs got the scoring started in the first inning again with a pair of runs on a two-out double to make it five games that High Point has conceded a run in the opening frame. HPU wasn’t behind for long, putting up four runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead. Johnson singled with one out to start and then made it to third on a hit-and-run with a single from Travis Holt. Irvine was up next and sent one deep to the hole at short for the infield single to score Johnson.
Carr then singled to center to load the bases for Sutton, who followed Carr’s lead with an RBI single to center to score Holt. Sutton was out at second in the next at bat when Singsank grounded into a fielder’s choice but was able to bring home Irvine in the process. Singsank then took off for second and slid in safely, with the throw sailing wildly into the outfield to bring home Carr on the error and make it 4-2.
High Point added to the lead in the next inning when Johnson sent a sac fly out to center to bring home Stuart. The next 11 batters in the game were retired in order, with each team having a quick 1-2-3 outing in the third. The Panthers tacked on two more runs in the fourth, taking advantage of an Asheville error with both runs crossing unearned.
Zayicek doubled on the first pitch of the inning and took third when Stuart grounded out to second. Pearre drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on the corners, which worked into High Point’s advantage to induce the error in the next at bat. Johnson sent a grounder to third and the Bulldog defender was thinking double play as he reached for the ball and turned to second, but didn’t quite have the ball in his glove yet as it careened off his hands, allowing everyone to be safe and Zayicek to score. Holt was up next and was hit by a pitch in an 0-2 count to load the bases, which proved to be costly as Irvine hit a sac fly to right to bring home Pearre after he moved to third on the hit batter.
Zayicek was the catalyst for another big inning for the Panthers in the fifth, ripping a two-RBI triple down the line in right that made it all the way to the corner of the ballpark. Sutton started the inning with a double to the gap in left and then took third on a wild pitch. Singsank walked next and swiped second to get to scoring position for Zayicek’s second extra-base knock of the game. Zayicek came around to score on another sac fly for the Purple and White, this time from Pearre to make it 10-2.
Asheville scored its first run since the first inning in the sixth with a solo bomb to left. High Point countered that with two more in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of another Bulldog error. Two runners were in scoring position after Carr singled to first with one out and made it to third when Leach picked up his first career hit with a double down the line in right.
Singsank sent one deep to left that looked to be a sac fly to plate Carr, but the Asheville left fielder dropped the fly ball to allow Singsank to reach and Leach to advance to third. Zayicek was up next and sent another sac fly out to center, this time successfully caught but still deep enough to score Leach from third for the Panthers’ final runs of the game. The Bulldogs scored three more before the game was over, getting one back in the eighth and then scoring two in the ninth on a one-out, two-RBI single to end the game with the final score of 12-6.
High Point will look to get its first weekend-series sweep in the Big South since taking all three against Asheville in 2019, tomorrow (March 7) when the two sides meet at Williard Stadium once again. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.