Spartans Open SoCon Tournament Play with 6-3 Win over Samford
GREENVILLE, S.C. – UNCG earned its first win in the opening round of the Southern Conference Tournament presented by Holston Gases since 2008 Thursday morning, defeating the Samford Bulldogs, 6-3. The Spartans advance to play the ETSU Buccaneers tomorrow at noon at Fluor Field in the second round of the tournament. UNCG is now 32-21 on the season. Samford falls into the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament and will play Western Carolina this afternoon at 4 p.m.
“(Bryce) Hensley gave us a great start, he had great command of his fastball, his off-speed pitches were all in play today.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “(Andrew) Wantz came on in the eighth and pitched well for the most part. He made one mistake but he was able to move past it to retire the next six. Our defense was very sound, there were a couple plays early in the game that if we make them they may not score. I could go around to every position on the diamond and think of something that came up defensively that was well done.”
“Offensively, against some very good arms, the overall quality of our at bats and the quality of contact with line drives and hard hit ground balls was impressive.” Jarrett continued, “We feel like when we can use our short game, that really helps our offense and that was evident today. (Austin) Embler's squeeze was big, (Ryan) Clinch moved a runner and allowed us to score and (Zach) Kuchmaner getting a bunt down to move a runner and that run came around to score, it's a very big part of our offense. Kuchmaner, to step up there and deliver the two-out triple to plate two runs really gave us some momentum that we rode to the end. I'm really proud of the way we played today.”
Bryce Hensley (Asheville, N.C./Catawba Valley CC) and Andrew Wantz (Holly Springs, N.C./Holly Springs) combined for the victory. Hensley worked 7.0 innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs and struck out three while earning his seventh victory of the season. Wantz threw the eighth and ninth innings, giving up two hits and a run but recorded a strikeout as UNCG earned the win.
The Spartan offense tallied 13 hits in the contest, with four players going for multiple hits. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth) tallied a 3-for-3 performance with a run scored and drove in a run. Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, with Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) going 1-for-4 with an RBI and scoring twice. Caleb Webster (Randleman, N.C./Randleman) and Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) each tallied a pair of hits, Webster scored twice and Moritz once. Zach Kuchmaner (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) drove in a game-high two runs on his first career triple.
Samford scored the first run of the contest in the top of the second inning. Taylor Garris started the rally with a one-out single before moving to third on a Kevin Williams, Jr. double off the green monster in left. Ayrton Schafer hit a fly ball to center field allowing Garris to score and put Samford up, 1-0.
With two outs in the bottom of the third, UNCG got a rally started. Shelton singled and went first to third when Moritz looped a single to shallow right field. Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) singled through the left side to tie the game at one. Zach Kuchmaner (Charlotte, N.C./Marvin Ridge) followed with his first triple of the season to center field to score two and put the Spartans up 3-1.
UNCG added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, getting an RBI single from Shelton to score Webster who singled earlier in the inning.
The Bulldogs cut the Spartan lead in half in the top of the fifth. Williams led off with a walk and moved to third on a Schafer double to left. Troy Dixon followed with a single up the middle to plate Williams and cut the lead to 4-2, UNCG.
The Spartans scored solo runs in the sixth and seventh innings to add to their lead. Webster led off the sixth with UNCG's school-record tying 32nd triple of the season and scored on a Spitznagel fielder's choice. Goss led off the seventh with a walk and moved to third after a walk sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch. Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest) laid down a safety squeeze bunt to bring in Goss and run the lead to 6-3.
Samford cut into the lead in the top of the eighth on an Anthony Mulrine solo home run, but could come no closer.
The Spartans are back in action Friday at noon as they will take on the ETSU Bucs in the second round of the SoCon Tournament at Fluor Field.