Sykes Solid in Relief as Baseball Falls to No. 4 South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. – UNCG baseball couldn’t find a big hit early and South Carolina’s pitching staff used two pitchers to clamp down on the Spartan offense Saturday afternoon. The Blue and Gold fell to the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, 5-1 in front of another sellout crowd of 8,242 at Founders Park. UNCG falls to 0-2 on the season, while South Carolina improves to 2-0.
“That was another good baseball game.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “We battled. We made a mistake in the third inning, we weren’t able to make the play on the comebacker, and we didn’t keep the ball in the infield later in that inning and allowed that first run to score. The margin for error in games of this caliber is slim. They pitched a little better, their defense was a little sharper in critical moments, and offensively, they were able to string more together than we were. (Wil) Crowe is one of their top arms and missed last year with an injury, and you see that kind of velocity and command, that’s what makes him a good starting pitcher.”
“I was very proud of how we played in the ninth inning.” Jarrett continued, “(Andrew) Moritz with the base hit and then never slowing down and taking second base when the centerfielder misplayed it slightly. That was the play that put us in position to get on the board. Goss’ at bat, with two strikes to drive that the other way to get us a run was nice. It’s nice to walk out of here having played the ninth inning at the level we did.”
Bryce Hensley (Asheville, N.C./Catawba Valley CC) started for UNCG on the hill. The junior southpaw went 4.2 innings, allowing four runs, three earned and striking out two hitters. Sykes worked in relief, picking up a strikeout in 2.1 innings of scoreless action. Alex Sova (Midland, Mich./Kellogg CC) made his Spartan debut in the eighth, surrendering a run.
The UNCG offense could not solve the riddle that is the South Carolina pitching staff. The Spartans managed five hits in the contest, led by junior Ryan Clinch (Jamestown, N.C./Brunswick CC) and sophomore Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence). Clinch finished 2-for-4 with a single in the second inning and a bunt single to lead off the eighth. Moritz added a single in the first and ninth innings, as well as the lone run. Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga State CC) recorded the RBI.
After recording a pair of one-out hits in the first inning, UNCG’s offense couldn’t move the runners around and missed an opportunity to take its first lead of the season.
South Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. Danny Blair singled and was thrown out at third on a TJ Hopkins fielder’s choice by the Spartan defense. Justin Row followed with a hard hit ball that skipped past the UNCG third baseman to score Hopkins, but was thrown out at second. Moritz and Stewart contributed outfield assists to snuff out a Gamecock rally.
The Gamecocks added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. After a Carlos Cortes ground out, Jacob Olson, Jonah Bride and Blair singled to ignite a rally. Row and Alex Destino added RBI singles to put South Carolina up 4-0 after five complete.
South Carolina tacked on a run in the eighth inning, taking advantage of a walk and a hit batter before a single from Cortes drove in the run.
The Spartans were able to get on the board in the top of the ninth inning. Moritz singled to start the frame and took second base after the centerfielder misplayed his hit. He moved to third on a Dillon Stewart (Dunn, N.C./Brunswick CC) ground out, and scored on a Goss sacrifice fly to right.
UNCG is back in action tomorrow in the series finale against the Gamecocks. First pitch scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Founders Park.