Baseball Settles in and Hands Mercer its First Friday Night Loss
MACON, Ga. – UNCG baseball handed the No. 22 Mercer Bears their second Southern Conference loss of the season Friday night. After a rough second inning, UNCG shutout the Bears over the next seven frames to earn the 8-4 victory at Claude Smith Field at OrthoGeorgia Park. The loss was Mercer's first on Friday night this season. UNCG improves to 25-15 overall and 9-4 in the Southern Conference. Mercer falls to 35-10 and 14-2 in SoCon play. The Bears had won 12-straight SoCon games prior to Friday's game.
“I'm very proud of the way our team played tonight.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “We got down early, we had a sloppy second inning, but Bryce (Hensley) was able to keep his composure and poise and went right back out and started hanging zeros. It took us a little while offensively to get things going, but the short game and the running game played a big part into what was going on.”
“(Ben) Spitznagel had a huge base hit that scored two runs.” Jarrett continued, “Tripp (Shelton)'s home run gave us a shot of adrenaline when he tied the game up. The quality of the at bat late in the game against some good bullpen arms was very enjoyable to watch. I thought our guys executed well, defense was solid, and Bryce had one of his best starts after he had to deal with the second inning and some of the mistakes we made. (Jack) Maynard came in and closed it out at the end. I'm very proud of the way we played.”
Bryce Hensley (Asheville, N.C./Catawba Valley CC) got the start. The southpaw threw 6.0 innings, scattering seven hits with two strikeouts. Hensley allowed four runs, only one earned, all in the second inning. Jack Maynard (Crozet, Va./Patrick Henry CC) came on and earned his first save. Maynard threw 3.0 innings, allowing just two hits and struck out three batters.
Eight of nine players recorded hits for the Spartan offense, with four going for multiple hits. Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) finished 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) added two hits and a run scored. Cesar Trejo (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) and Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest) each tallied two hits. Trejo scored once, and Embler crossed the plate twice. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth) went 1-for-3 and hit his fourth home run of the year.
Mercer rallied in the second to score four runs. Jackson Ware doubled to start the rally before Hunter Bening walked. A single from Trey Truitt scored Ware, and a single from Matt Meeder loaded the bases. Ryan Hagan hit a sharp grounder to third, but the throw was wide the Spartan catcher, scoring a pair. With runners on the corners, a wild pitch brought in another run to put the Bears up 4-0.
The Spartans cut the lead to one in the top of the fifth, scoring three runs. Embler led off with a single to right and Ryan Clinch (Jamestown, N.C./Brunswick CC) walked to put two on. Ryne Sigmon (Danville, Va./Danville CC) bunted to move the runners over and Spitznagel dropped a single to centerfield to score two. Spitznagel stole second and came around to score on a single from Moritz to cut the lead to 4-3, Bears.
UNCG took the lead in the top of the sixth inning. Shelton led the frame off with a solo home run off the scoreboard in left field. Clinch drew a walk and moved up on a wild pitch. Caleb Webster (Randleman, N.C./Randleman) blooped a single off the end of the bat to right field to bring in Clinch and put the Spartans up 5-4.
The Blue and Gold tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh inning. Trejo led off with a single. Shelton and Embler followed with walks to load the bases before a wild pitch brought Trejo in. Clinch executed a squeeze play to score Shelton to put the lead at 7-4. Spitznagel connected on a line drive right at the Mercer second baseman who misplayed it, allowing Embler to score and put UNCG up 8-4.
Maynard came on in the bottom of the seventh inning and worked a pair of perfect frames. The junior ran into some trouble in the ninth, loading the bases with two singles and a walk with one out. Maynard got a great defensive play from Shelton who scooped up a sinking liner to keep the bases loaded and record the second out. Alex Hanson followed with a fly ball to deep centerfield, but Moritz made the play to preserve the win.
The Spartans and Bears continue the series tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch at 2:00 p.m. at Claude Smith Field at OrthoGeorgia Park.