Baseball Earns a Spot in the SoCon Tournament Championship Game after Defeating Furman, 12-8
GREENVILLE, S.C. – UNCG earned a 12-8 victory over the Furman Paladins Saturday afternoon in the winner's bracket of the Southern Conference Tournament presented by Holston Gases. The Spartans advance to the championship game at noon tomorrow against Samford, Furman or ETSU. This is the first time since 2001 that the Spartans have made it to the Championship game, but has never won the tournament title. The Spartans improve to 34-21 on the season. Furman falls to 31-27.
Tickets are available for tomorrow's Championship. Fans can purchase tickets for $10 at the Fluor Field box office.
“The first two pitches of the game, and the ability of the guys to execute what they were trying to do got us started.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “You don't see two swings result in two runs on two pitches very often, but it happened today. Those two guys at the top set the table for us and when you see guys at the top of the order finding ways on base, it sure sets your offense up nicely. We did some nice things, our execution of the hit-and-run was done well today.
“(Dan) Loats extended on the mound, we had to extend him and he did a good job.” Jarrett continued, “I can't say enough about how (Jack) Maynard pitched late in that ball game. It was big pitch, after big pitch, after big pitch in that game. Both teams had decisions as to who they wanted to pitch to late in the game, and those strategic moves worked out great for us. Maynard was able to execute and was able to make some poised, composed pitches at crunch time.”
Dan Loats (Eden Prairie, Minn./NIACC) started for the Spartans. The junior threw 5.1 innings, allowing 11 hits and six runs while striking out six hitters. Alex Sova gave up a bunt hit and allowed a runner to reach via a fielder's choice in his appearance. Jack Maynard (Crozet, Va./Patrick Henry CC) threw the final 3.2 innings, allowing just one hit walking a pair of batters and striking out four hitters. Maynard worked out of a bases loaded situation in the top of the eighth inning before recording a perfect ninth inning.
Three Spartans recorded three hits in the contest. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth) led the team with four RBI, scored three runs, a home run and a double. Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and drove in a run. Caleb Webster (Randleman, N.C./Randleman) tallied a 3-for-4 performance, driving in a run and scoring another. Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) drove in a trio of runs, finishing 2-for-5 with a run scored.
The Spartans jumped out to an early lead, needing just two pitches to do so. Spitznagel singled on the first pitch he saw and Shelton drove his sixth homer out of the park in left center to put UNCG up 2-0 early.
UNCG went for five-straight hits with one out in the second inning to take a 6-0 lead. Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest) and Webster hit back-to-back singles to put two on for Ryan Clinch (Jamestown, N.C./Brunswick CC). Clinch singled to left field to score one before taking second when the left fielder misplayed it. Spitznagel dropped in a single to left in front of a diving defender to score another and took second on the throw. Shelton again came up big, singling to left center to score two and give UNCG some insurance runs.
Furman showed its muscle to get back into the contest. Cam Whitehead hit his first career triple off the wall in left center before being brought home on a Jason Costa two-run home run over the green monster in left field in the fourth inning. In the fifth, Jabari Richards doubled off the monster in left and came around on a home run from Whitehead to cut the lead to 6-4.
The Blue and Gold extended their lead to 9-4 after scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. After a Shelton double, Moritz hit his third home run of the season to right field. After a Cesar Trejo (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) walk, Embler singled to put runners on first and second. Webster hit a single off the wall in left field scoring Trejo, but was thrown out trying to take second.
The Paladins answered back to score four runs in the top of the sixth to make it a one-run game. With one out, a single from Bret Huebner was followed with a double from Jake Crawford. Sky Overton laid down a bunt hit to drive in the first run, and Richards reached on a fielder's choice to score another. After a Carter Grote walk, Landon Kay ground out to short to score a run and cut the lead to 9-8 in favor of the Spartans.
UNCG rallied to score three runs, two unearned off of Furman's ace Will Gaddis in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend the lead. Clinch reached on a fielder's choice and Spitznagel singled. Shelton was issued an intentional walk to load the bases for Moritz. Moritz ground out to second base but Clinch scored on the play. Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) tapped a ground ball out to shortstop with two outs, but the throw was wide of first base and allowed two runs to score to give UNCG the 12-8 lead.
Maynard worked a perfect ninth, getting three ground outs to Webster at third to get the victory and his second save in as many days.
The Spartans return to action tomorrow at noon as their opponent has yet to be determined. The winner of the Samford, ETSU game will take on the Paladins tonight at 7:30 p.m. with the winner of that facing UNCG tomorrow.