Merritt Goes the Distance in HPU Baseball Victory at Winthrop

Site: Rock Hill, S.C. (The Winthrop Ballpark)
Score: High Point 11, Winthrop 2
W: Teddy Merritt (1-0), L: Tyler Jones (1-5)
Records: HPU 13-20 (11-14 Big South), WU 10-21 (8-16 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Saturday, May 1 — at Winthrop (DH) (Rock Hill, S.C.), 1 p.m.

ROCK HILL, S.C. – Freshman Teddy Merritt threw the first complete game the Panthers have had since the 2019 Big South Tournament as the High Point University baseball team cruised to an 11-2 victory over Winthrop University Friday evening (April 30) in the first of a three-game series with the Eagles.

Merritt gave up a hit in each of the first two innings but only allowed one more before the ninth inning, ending with a total of five hits and two walks allowed over the nine innings. The two runs came on a two-run homer in the ninth inning but neither were earned as a two-out error allowed the game to continue and end Merritt’s bid at the first complete game shutout HPU has had since Conor Lourey did so against Longwood in the Big South Tournament in 2015.

“For a freshman to go out and throw his first career complete game was special,” head coach Craig Cozart said after the game. “He had to work through some situations but he continued to be aggressive and pounded the strike zone and our defense was special behind him. To [Merritt’s] credit, he recognized that and continued to fill up the strike zone and challenge hitters and got great results because of it.”

Merritt’s complete game on Friday was the first for the Purple and White since Muhammed Eid went the distance against Presbyterian in the last iteration of the Big South Tournament in 2019. It’s just the sixth complete game in the Big South this season and the first in the conference in two weeks.

High Point didn’t need to solely rely on Merritt’s dazzling display on the mound to get the job done as HPU’s offense took care of business as well. The Purple and White scored in double digits for the sixth time this season, improving to 6-0 when doing so. Four different Panthers racked up double-digit hits in the game, with Cole Singsank leading the way with a career-high four hits in a career-best six at bats. As a team, High Point had 42 at bats in the game for the most this season and most since having 43 in the last complete game in 2019 against Presbyterian.

Travis Holt was right behind Singsank with three hits on Friday to match his season-high and give him his fifth multi-hit game of the season. The redshirt junior also led the team in RBIs with four – a career-high. It’s the fifth time this season that a Panther has recorded four RBIs in a single game, the most since HPU had six games where a single player recorded four or more RBIs during the 2018 season. Cameron Irvine and Blake Sutton were the other two Panthers with multiple hits in the game as each recorded a pair.

The Panthers totaled 14 hits as a team in the contest to reach double digits for the 16th time this season and the 12th time in conference play. It’s the fifth time in the last six games HPU has had double-digit hits and 10th time in the 13 games played in April. The Purple and White were aided on the basepaths by a lack of control from the Winthrop pitchers as the Eagles combined for eight wild pitches in the game for the most High Point has seen all season and just three shy of matching the NCAA Division I record of 11, set in 2000.

High Point only scored in the odd-numbered innings of the game and did so in every such inning. The Panthers got things going with three runs in the first, sending eight batters to the plate in the opening frame. Peyton Carr ripped a double down the line with one out and moved 90 feet closer on the first wild pitch of the day. Singsank followed him up by taking a 2-0 pitch to left field for a single that brought Carr home for Singsank’s only RBI of his four hits.

Adam Stuart and Irvine each drew walks to load the bases but a strikeout in between the two walks put two outs on the board. Sutton was up next and hit a grounder to first that should have ended the inning but an errant throw by the Winthrop fielder allowed everyone to advance two bases, bringing home Singsank and Stuart for the early 3-0 lead. Jackson Melton led the second inning off with a five-pitch walk and moved up to third with one out after a pair of wild pitches but back-to-back groundouts left him stranded there.

The Panthers added to their lead in the third after taking advantage of another leadoff walk and more wild pitches. Stuart worked the count full and took ball four to get on base and moved up to second when Irvine singled to left. Both runners advanced to third on a wild pitch with Holt at the plate and Stuart came home when ball four bounced in the dirt and got to the backstop.

Merritt sat the side down in order in the third and fourth innings, needing only 19 pitches to get the six outs. HPU tacked on one more in the fifth when Holt drove in his first run of the game. Brady Pearre hit a screamer back up the middle on the first pitch of the inning and moved to second with one out on a wild pitch. Holt stepped up with two outs and followed suit with a hard liner to center that was able to bring the Panthers’ right fielder home to extend the lead to 5-0.

Winthrop threatened to score in the bottom of the fifth after putting runners on the corners with two outs. A four-pitch walk started the inning and a hit batter put two on. Sutton was able to get the first out of the inning after tracking down a high popup in foul territory at the wall behind the plate and a fly ball to right that moved the lead runner up to third put two outs on the board. Merritt was up to the challenge and racked up his fourth strikeout of the day to strand the runner at third and get out of the inning.

After another 1-2-3 inning from Merritt on the mound in the sixth, the Panthers rewarded their pitcher with three more runs in the seventh. Stuart swung at the first offering of the stanza and had High Point’s second leadoff double down the line in left of the game. He advanced to third when Pearre grounded out to second and later came home on a wild pitch. Irvine drew a walk and Sutton was safe on an infield single from a hard-hit ball to third to put two runners on and both advanced on the eighth and final wild pitch of the game from the Winthrop staff. Holt was at the plate and sent the next pitch into center for two more RBIs after scoring both runners to make it 8-0.

Merritt gave up his first hit since the second inning in the seventh but stranded the runner and then retired the side in order in the eighth to get to the ninth with an eight-run lead and just three hits allowed before HPU added to the lead in the inning with its third three-run inning of the game. Irvine took the first pitch of the inning to left for a single and Sutton pulled a double down the line in right to put two runners in scoring position yet again with Holt stepping to the plate.

Holt watched the first three pitches miss the zone but swung on the 3-0 and singled to left for his third hit of the day and fourth RBI when Irvine trotted home. Sutton came home in the next at bat when Melton reached base after the Winthrop third baseman couldn’t handle a grounder hit his way for an error. The bases were loaded shortly after when Joe Johnson ripped one right at the second baseman, who could only get a piece of his glove on the dipping line drive for back-to-back errors for the Eagles. That set up a sacrifice fly from Carr to score Holt for High Point’s 11th and final run of the game.

Merritt came back out in the ninth to finish what he started and had a great start after getting two outs on five pitches. An error allowed a Winthrop baserunner and kept the inning alive, which proved to be costly as the next batter took a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right to break up the shutout bid. The next Eagle took the first pitch he saw into left field for a single but Merritt bounced back with his fifth strikeout of the day for the complete-game victory.

High Point and Winthrop will finish the series on Saturday (May 1) with a doubleheader at The Winthrop Ballpark. First pitch in game one is scheduled for 1 p.m., with game two beginning approximately 45 after the conclusion of the first.