Three-Run Ninth Trips Up HPU Baseball Panthers

Site: High Point, N.C. (Williard Stadium)
Score: Gardner-Webb 6, High Point 3
W: Kyle Skidmore (1-0), L: Carter Sheppard (0-3)
Records: GWU 5-9 (4-4 Big South), HPU 8-10 (6-6 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Saturday, March 27 — vs. Gardner-Webb (DH) (Williard Stadium, High Point, N.C.), 1 p.m.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team dropped its series opener with Gardner-Webb University 6-3 Friday evening (March 26).

The game was tight throughout, with neither team leading by more than one until the Runnin’ Bulldogs scored three in the top of the ninth to come away with the victory.

“The game was right there for us to take control of at any moment,” head coach Craig Cozart said after the contest. “Once again, offensively, we didn’t take control of situations and the bullpen caved in at the end and gave up the big inning. That was really the ballgame in a nutshell. Quite honestly, it was very disappointing. The guys have to figure out a way to come out tomorrow and win a series and that’s always tough to do when you play a doubleheader so I’m looking forward to seeing them compete tomorrow.”

Dawson Place got the start on the mound and gave up one earned run on three hits and a walk while picking up a career-high six strikeouts in 4.2 innings of action. Griffyn Shelton relieved Place out of the bullpen and gave up one run on two hits in 1.1 innings before Nick Hernandez threw 1.1 innings of shutout relief while only giving up one hit.

High Point’s offense mustered seven hits in the game, all of which were singles – with three coming off the bat of Cole Singsank. The Panthers stranded seven runners in the game, including leaving the bases loaded in the first after bringing the game’s first run around in the opening inning.

After Place picked up two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 first, HPU broke the scoring open in the bottom of the inning. Brady Pearre walked with two outs and then Singsank picked up his first hit of the game with a single up the middle and advanced to second when Gardner-Webb unsuccessfully tried to throw out Pearre at third, putting runners on second and third. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, with Pearre coming around to score, and back-to-back walks to Blake Sutton and Adam Stuart loaded the bases before a popup to short ended the threat.

Gardner-Webb immediately answered in the top of the second with a two-out solo home run to left field to even things up at one. The Runnin’ Bulldogs took their first lead of the game in the third after the lead-off batter reached on an error and made it all the way around to score. He took second on a sacrifice bunt and then came around to score on a double down the left-field line to make it 2-1.

The Panthers tied it up in the fourth when Sutton scored on an RBI-single from Justin Ebert. Sutton struck out to open the inning but reached first when the ball got away from the GWU catcher. He took second on a sac bunt from Stuart and then came home on Ebert’s single up the middle.

Both teams put up a run in the sixth inning, with Gardner-Webb retaking the lead briefly after a ground-rule double over the short fence in right-center and a shallow single to left. HPU responded in the bottom of the inning when Singsank scored. He led the inning off with his second hit of the day and stole second to get into scoring position. A groundout to the right side of the infield moved him to third and a single to right off the bat of Adam Stuart leveled the score once more.

The score remained tied until the ninth inning when Gardner-Webb strung together three straight hits to open the inning and score what proved to be the winning run. A double down the line in left started the ninth, followed by a bunt single to third to put runners on the corners. The next batter doubled to left to bring home one run and put two runners in scoring position. HPU elected to load the bases after picking up a strikeout, and a wild pitch brought home another run. The Runnin’ Bulldogs scored their final run of the game two batters later after the bases were loaded again, with a grounder to second deep enough to bring in the runner from third before the runner from second was thrown out at the plate trying to tack on an extra run.

High Point tried to mount a comeback in the bottom of the ninth but the tying run only got as far as the on-deck circle. Cameron Irvine came in to pinch-hit and single up the middle with one out but a strikeout and a fly ball to center ended the game before the Panthers could respond.

HPU will look to take the series in Saturday’s doubleheader (March 27), with game one scheduled for 1 p.m. and game two beginning 45 minutes after the completion of the first.