HPU Baseball Panthers Fend Off Late Rally to Secure Sweep

Site: High Point, N.C. (Williard Stadium)
Score: High Point 11, UNC Asheville 10
W: Dawson Place (1-0), L: Ryan Douglas (0-1) S: Joe Johnson (1)
Records: HPU 5-4 (3-0 Big South), AVL 1-7 (0-3 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Friday, March 12 — vs. Radford (Williard Stadium, High Point, N.C.), 4 p.m.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team held off a late rally from UNC Asheville to hold on for an 11-10 victory Sunday afternoon (March 7) to secure the weekend sweep and start Big South Conference play 3-0.

High Point led 11-4 heading into the eighth inning and looked to be cruising to the win before a lack of control on the mound saw five walks issued, three wild pitches thrown, one batter hit, and two singles to put six runs on the board and move Asheville within one before the ship was righted and the lead preserved.

It’s the first weekend sweep since opening weekend of the 2020 season and the first time starting conference play with a series sweep since taking three games against Asheville to open Big South play in 2016.

The Panthers’ offense was on fire all weekend, scoring a total of 31 runs over the three games – the most runs scored in a weekend series by HPU since the Purple and White hung 32 on Presbyterian in a sweep of the Blue Hose in 2015.

“Offensively, we were sensational all weekend,” head coach Craig Cozart had to say of his team’s best start to conference play over the last five seasons. “31 runs on the weekend better win you three ballgames, even though today was tough and tight. We needed every one of those 11 runs we put up today. I’m proud of the guys. It’s always tough to sweep. We couldn’t be happier to start conference play 3-0.”

Seven different Panthers picked up a base hit in the game, making it two games in a row that at least seven HPU players recorded a hit. Sam Zayicek had a big day at the plate, driving in three runs on a career-high four hits, including a pair of doubles. Peyton Carr and Cole Singsank also had multiple RBIs on two hits each, with both bringing one home on a sacrifice fly. Singsank hopped on yesterday’s home run train and sent one over the wall in left-center in the second inning for his first career homer.

Also picking up multiple hits in the contest were Travis Holt and Brady Pearre, with Holt singling three times and Pearre twice.

Dawson Place made his third start on the mound of the season and picked up his first career win after recording five strikeouts in five innings. The redshirt freshman allowed four runs on six hits and hit three batters but didn’t surrender a single walk.

The bullpen was a bit shaky in the later innings, but veteran pitcher Joe Johnson came in for the final out and only needed two pitches to end the game and pick up his second career save in his first outing of the year. Unfortunately for Johnson, he didn’t pick up a hit in his four at bats, ending his career-long hitting streak at 15 games.

HPU struck first, getting on the board in the first inning to start a streak of runs in each of the first six innings for the Purple and White. The Panthers only got one in the first, with Carr singling to score Holt. High Point added two more in the second and wasted little time adding to the lead as Singsank took the second pitch of the frame over the wall in left-center for the solo shot. Zayicek was up next and singled up the middle, later coming around to score on an RBI-single from Adam Stuart to make it 3-0 for the hosts.

Asheville responded right away with a home run of its own, this one a two-run shot to make it a one-run game. High Point added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the inning, with Singsank hitting a sac fly to right to score Cameron Irvine and then Zayicek picking up a two-out RBI-single to plate Carr.

The Panthers added three more in the fourth after a 1-2-3 inning from Place to make it 8-2. Irvine ripped a double down the line in right with two runners on to score Johnson and put Holt at third. Carr hit a sac fly to right to score Holt and then Irvine came home when the throw from right bounced off the third baseman’s glove and got to the wall to allow Irvine to take the final 90 feet for the run.

The Bulldogs hit their second home run of the game and third of the series in the next inning, cutting the Panther lead from six to four at 8-4 midway through the fifth. High Point bumped it back up to five in the bottom of the inning when Johnson reached on a two-out error by the second baseman that allowed Singank to reach the plate for his second run scored of the day. HPU tacked on its final two runs in the sixth when Zayicek doubled off the wall in left-center to score Singsank and Blake Sutton.

Only two baserunners for Asheville reached in the seventh but it was a different story in the eighth. High Point used four different pitchers in the inning, with two leaving before an out was recorded. Back-to-back walks were issued to start the inning, bringing the first call to the pen of the frame. The next pitch was wild to allow the runners to advance and then a third straight walk loaded the bases.

Another wild pitch brought the first run of the inning around and then a fourth consecutive free base on balls necessitated another pitching change for the Purple and White. The first base hit of the inning brought around two runs and put runners on the corners. A double play finally put an out on the board but scored the runner from third to make it 11-8. The next batter was hit and then a four-pitch walk was issued and with it another pitching change.

Yet another wild pitch in the first at bat from an arm out of the bullpen put two runners in scoring position again, and both came around on the second base hit of the inning to make it 11-10 before the third and final out was recorded. High Point looked to add an insurance run or two in the bottom of the eighth but went down in order on just 11 pitches.

The Panthers got the first two outs of the ninth with the first two batters but a two-out single to bring the go-ahead run to the plate brought Johnson onto the mound. The graduate student needed only two pitches to induce a grounder to short for the easy flip over to second to get the force and hold off the comeback.

High Pont continues its homestand to start conference play with a three-game series against Radford this weekend. First pitch on Friday (March 12) is scheduled for 4 p.m., with Saturday’s doubleheader (March 13) slated to begin at 1 p.m., with the second game starting approximately 45 minutes after the completion of the first.