Baseball Secures the Three-Seed in the Upcoming SoCon Tournament Defeating Samford, 14-7
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Dan Loats (Eden Prairie, Minn./NIACC) turned in a stellar performance on the mound as the Spartans defeated the Samford Bulldogs, 14-7 Saturday afternoon. With the win, UNCG improves to 31-21 and 14-10 in Southern Conference play. The SoCon record gives the Spartans the three-seed in the upcoming Southern Conference Tournament Presented by Holston Gases next week in Greenville, S.C. Samford falls to 31-24, and 11-13 in SoCon play and earns the six-seed in next week's tournament.
Loats logged another quality start; his fourth of the season as he picked up his seventh win. Loats went 6.0 innings, scattering six hits, allowed one earned run and struck out two. Brandon Stephens (Willow Spring, N.C./Wake Christian Academy) was first out of the bullpen. Stephens gave up hits to the four batters he faced before giving way to Andrew Wantz (Holly Springs, N.C./Holly Springs). Wantz threw the next 2.0 innings, allowing two hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts.
UNCG's RBI leader Cesar Trejo (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) continued to drive in runs. The sophomore finished 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, a game-high five RBI, and scored a run. The top of the order was a threat all day. Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored and drew two walks. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth) went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) was again productive, going 3-for-4 with three RBI and scored twice. Zach Kuchmaner (Charlotte, N.C./Marvin Ridge) made the most of his second start as the designated hitter, going 1-for-4 with a career-high three RBI and two runs scored.
Samford got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning. Greg Mula singled and moved to second on a T.J. Dixon ground out. Troy Dixon followed with a single to right field to score the first run of the game and give the Bulldogs the early lead.
The Spartans took the first lead of the game in the next half inning. After Spitznagel walked to start the frame, Shelton singled to put two on. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners over, before Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) walked to load them for Kuchmaner. Kuchmaner hit into a fielder's choice to bring a run in and put runners on the corners. Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest) forced a tough play, reaching on a throwing error from the Samford pitcher, allowing two runs to score and put UNCG up 3-1.
UNCG batted around in the top of the fifth, scoring five runs to take a commanding, 8-1 lead. JoJo Underwood (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) and Spitznagel got the inning started with back-to-back singles. Shelton laid down a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed, allowing Underwood to score. Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) singled to drive in Spitznagel and put two on. After Goss was hit by a pitch, Kuchmaner hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Shelton. Trejo doubled down the left field line to score a pair and put the Spartans up 8-1.
The Blue and Gold continued to add to its lead in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Moritz singled and Goss was hit by another pitch to put two on. Kuchmaner drove in his third run of the game on a single to centerfield before scoring on Trejo's ninth home run of the season. The three-run blast put UNCG up 12-1.
UNCG tacked on two more in the top of the seventh. Caleb Webster (Randleman, N.C./Randleman) singled and Spitznagel drew a walk, Moritz hit a chopper through the right side to score two and put UNCG up, 14-1.
Samford rallied to score six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Bulldogs tallied six-straight hits to start the inning, capped by a Sam McWhorter three-run homer to cut the Spartan lead in half at 14-7.
Underwood and Spitznagel singled to start the top of the ninth inning, before thunder forced a weather delay. Play was not resumed and UNCG claimed the victory in a weather-shortened contest.
The Blue and Gold return to action on Wednesday in the Southern Conference Tournament in Greenville, S.C. at Fluor Field. Having earned the No. 3 seed, the Spartans will play these same Samford Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evening in the first round of the SoCon Tournament.