Ruiz, Spitznagel and Goss Go Deep as Baseball Takes Series at Mercer
MACON, Ga. – Three Spartans homered as UNCG pulled off a 12-3 victory over the Mercer Bears Sunday afternoon at OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field. UNCG took two of three games from the Southern Conference-leading Bears over the weekend. It's the first time the Bears have lost a weekend series in their last 17 weekend series, dating back to 2016. UNCG improves to 26-16 on the season and 10-5 in the Southern Conference. Mercer falls to 36-11 and 15-3 in SoCon action.
“Great all-around performance by our team today.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “(Dan) Loats went out and continued to execute pitches and collect outs. Coulter (Mercer) did a nice job. It took us until the sixth inning with some defensive plays made by (Tripp) Shelton and (Andrew) Moritz to give us a shot of adrenaline, and that sparked our seventh. Devin (Ruiz)'s at bat to start the seventh, a 10-pitch walk symbolized our toughness and was a reflection of how I think our team has played on Sunday's this season. That at bat got us going, and that string of offense that followed that at bat was one of the most impressive offensive innings I've seen a team have.”
“Up and down the lineup, you can find guys who were important pieces to being able to score and winning a game on Sunday.” Jarrett continued, “Brandon (Stephens) went out and filled up the strike zone and did a good job closing it out. It was nice to see extra-base hits today, we haven't had a ton of those lately, and they factored in to us putting a big number up. (Michael) Goss's home run, Ruiz's home run, Cesar (Trejo)'s double, (Ben) Spitznagel's home run, those allow you to score in bunches and that's how you put up 12 runs on the board. That was a good win for us against a very good team.”
Dan Loats (Eden Prairie, Minn./NIACC) went a career-long 6.2 innings, striking out four hitters. Loats scattered seven hits and allowed three runs; two earned en route to his fourth victory of the season. Brandon Stephens (Willow Spring, N.C./Wake Christian Academy) threw the next 2.1 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out two batters in relief.
UNCG's offense pounded out 16 hits, with seven going for extra bases in the victory. Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) finished 3-for-6 with a double, a home run, two RBI and two runs scored. Cesar Trejo (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI, a run scored and reached base five times. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth), Caleb Webster (Randleman, N.C./Randleman) and Devin Ruiz (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) each finished with two hits. Ruiz scored a game-high three runs.
Ruiz put the Spartans ahead in the top of the second, taking a 1-2 offering over the fence in left field for his first home run of the season.
Mercer used a one-out rally to answer in its half of the second. Charlie Madden drew a walk and Jackson Ware reached via hit-by-pitch. Trey Truitt singled in to left field to bring in Madden and tie the game up at one.
The Bears took advantage of an error to take the lead in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, Alex Hanson and JT Thomas hit back-to-back singles. Danny Edgeworth hit into the fielder's choice, but the double play throw got away, allowing Hanson to score and putting the Bears up 2-1.
The Spartans rallied with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Ruiz drew a 10-pitch walk to reach first. Spitznagel unloaded his first home run of the season to take a 3-2 lead. Shelton and Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) drew back-to-back walks before Trejo drilled a double to left center to score two. Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) lifted his fifth home run of the season to add to the lead. Webster, Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest) and Ruiz singled to load the bases. Ryan Clinch (Jamestown, N.C./Brunswick CC) singled back up the middle to score two more. UNCG scored eight runs on seven hits, all with two outs to take a 9-2 lead.
Mercer cut into the lead in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Ryan Hagan was hit by a pitch to put a runner on. Hanson singled and Thomas brought Hagan in with a single to cut the lead to 9-3.
The Blue and Gold continued to tack on runs in the ninth inning. Webster doubled to start the frame and scored on a Clinch sacrifice fly. Spitznagel doubled and Shelton drove in a pair on a single up the middle to push the lead to 12-3, Spartans.
UNCG returns to the field Tuesday evening as it travels to Triad-rival Elon for a midweek contest at 6:00 p.m. at Latham Stadium.