KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Spartan offense connected for 14 hits against the Tennessee pitching staff Saturday afternoon, but could not deliver a big inning, falling to the Tennessee Volunteers, 11-4. The loss drops UNCG to 3-3 on the season, while Tennessee improves to 4-2. Nine players connected for base hits, but UNCG left nine runners on base in a game in which both pitching staffs combined to walk just one hitter.
The UNCG offense racked up 14 hits during the contest, led by a 4-for-5 performance from Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest). Embler had a pair of doubles, an RBI and scored once. Eight starters earned base hits, with Caleb Webster (Randleman, N.C./Randleman) driving in two. Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) added one hit and drove in a run.
Bryce Hensley (Asheville, N.C./Catawba Valley CC) got the start on the hill. He went 3.1 innings, allowed seven hits, six runs; five earned and struck out a pair while not walking a batter. Easton Welch (Randleman, N.C./Gardner-Webb) was first out of the bullpen. Welch went 1.2 innings, allowed five hits and three earned runs.
Alex Hoppe (Clinton, Iowa/Unity Christian) threw next, seeing two hitters, giving up a walk and a double. Jake Lewis (Wendell, N.C./Corinth Holders) finished off the game, throwing the final 3.0 innings. He scattered four hits, gave up an earned run and struck out a game-high six hitters.
“Their starting pitcher really commanded four pitches and did a nice job of keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “Their extra base hits against our lack of extra base hits, in a game with a lot of offense, their extra base hits is what propelled them to be able to put a big number on the board. As compared to our hits, which were essentially all singles except for a couple from Austin (Embler) late.”
“Bryce (Hensley) had a good first inning, but he left too many balls in the middle of the plate.” Jarrett continued, “There were three plays that have to be made. We didn’t make a play in right field, we didn’t cover a bunt properly and we let an out at the plate get away, we got an out at first, but those three plays totally changed the momentum of the ballgame. We couldn’t regroup and do enough to get this one. I tip my cap to (Garrett) Stallings. He really kept the ball down and we put balls in play but we couldn’t deliver a blow, similar to yesterday. We weren’t ever able to capitalize like they were with the base hits. Tomorrow’s a big day, obviously we haven’t played great, but Sunday’s a big day for us and we’ll come out tomorrow and play well.
Tennessee broke open the scoreless game in the bottom of the third inning. Five-straight singles started the inning to drive in two before Pete Derkay hit an RBI ground out. Andre Lipcius singled again to bring another home and put the Volunteers up 4-0. Tennessee added their lead the next inning, getting a two-run homer from Zach Daniels.
The Volunteers continued to add to their lead in the fifth. With one out, Lipcius singled and scored on a Benito Santiago double. Santiago scored on a Wyatt Stapp double. Stapp moved to third on a single and scored on a wild pitch to put Tennessee up 9-0.
UNCG got on the board in the top of the sixth. Josh Madole (Hampstead, N.C./Topsail), Embler and Webster singled to start the inning, with Madole scoring on Webster’s base hit to cut the lead to 9-1.
Tennessee answered with another run in the sixth. A lead off walk and a double put two in scoring position for Derkay who singled to bring in one and put the Volunteers up 10-1.
The Spartans tacked on a pair in the top of seventh inning. Embler doubled to bring home Jake Kusz (Durham, N.C./Riverside) who reached via a fielder’s choice. Madole came around to score on a Webster single to trim the lead to 10-3.
Tennessee used a one out triple from Derkay to put a runner in scoring position for Lipcius who singled to add one and go up 11-3.
UNCG plated a run in the top of the ninth as Embler doubled and moved to third on a ground out. Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) pushed a single through the left side to drive in Embler and put the final score at 11-4.
UNCG and Tennessee wrap up the three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.