GREENSBORO, N.C. – Senior Jake Kusz belted his third home run of the season in the series finale against the VMI Keydets Sunday evening. The Keydets rallied to score three runs in the eighth inning to take the game 8-7. The Spartan offense failed to respond as UNCG drops to 16-6 with the loss and 2-1 in Southern Conference play. VMI improves to 10-11 on the season and 1-2 in SoCon play.
“We found ourselves down early.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “Offensively we had a chance to punch through in the first inning and score some runs and we were looking at having a big inning, but we didn’t do it. They (VMI) had some momentum early. We continued to scratch and fight and work out way back into having a lead. Unfortunately we gave it up late. (Caleb) Webster had a good day at the plate. He showed great ability to not only get one bunt down for a hit, but the ability to get a bunt base hit the other way shows a lot about how well he handles the bat. Easton (Welch) came in and really threw well. He’s been a big part of our bullpen this season.”
“I didn’t think any phase of our game, offensively, defensively or on the mound was sharp enough to overcome some of the mistakes that we made in those areas. We didn’t play clean defense, we didn’t execute at a high level offensively and we didn’t pitch to our capabilities to day. It’s a tough loss. I tip my hat to those guys. They played a good game today. To have an infielder come in at the end with that kind of arm strength to finish the game, I tip my hat and they deserved to win today. I hope we can tighten up some of these mistakes from today and continue to grow as a team.”
Dan Loats started on the hill. The senior threw 3-plus innings, scattering five hits, three runs, two earned and struck out five hitters. Easton Welch was first out of the bullpen. Welch entered in a bases loaded situation, allowed two hits and picked up a strikeout and allowed just one inherited runner to score.
Jake Lewis came in to throw 2.0 innings, allowing one earned run and striking out four hitters. Jack Maynard tossed the next two innings and suffered the loss. Maynard gave up a season-high seven hits, four runs, three earned and struck out two hitters. Andrew Wantz worked a perfect ninth inning, striking out two of three hitters faced.
The Spartan offense had eight players earn base hits, with five going for multi-hit games. Caleb Webster led the charge with a 3-for-5 performance with an RBI and scored twice. Andrew Moritz went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, hitting in the lead off spot for the first time since his freshman season. Dillon Stewart and Cesar Trejo each finished 2-for-4 and Trejo added an RBI. Greg Hardison went 2-for-4 in the ninth spot in the lineup and Kusz added the solo homer.
VMI jumped on the Spartans early, scoring two runs in the first inning. Nathan Eaton singled to start the frame before moving to third on a Matt Pita double to right. Jacob Jaye lined a fly ball to left field where Stewart made the catch, but could not throw out Eaton who scored on the play. After a single fell into right field and put Pita on third, a passed ball allowed the second run to score and VMI took the 2-0 lead.
UNCG took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the third inning. Kusz led off the inning with his third homer of the season, a solo shot to left field. Hardison singled to reignite the rally and Webster put down a bunt single to put runners at the corners. A wild pitch brought one run in before Trejo singled to drive in Webster and give the Spartans the 3-2 lead.
The Keydets rallied to tie the game up in the fourth inning. A single, a walk and a hit batter loaded the bases for Jake Huggins who drove a single through the right side to bring in the first run. A strikeout and a double play stranded the runners and kept the game tied at three.
The Spartans regained the lead with a rally in the bottom of the inning. Tripp Shelton singled and moved up on a bunt single from Ryan Clinch. A Hardison bunt single loaded the bases for Moritz who reached on a fielder’s choice and put runners on the corners. VMI balked in the next run as the Spartans ended the inning with a 5-3 lead.
VMI pushed two runs across in the top of the seventh. After a lead off walk, Pita single to right field. The ball kicked away from the Spartan right fielder, allowing Eaton to score from first and moving him to third. Jaye connected on his second sacrifice fly of the game to bring in Pita and tie the game at five.
The tie game didn’t last long as UNCG scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to retake the two-run advantage. Moritz led the inning off with a double down the left field line and came around to score on a Webster single. After Stewart singled and a double steal, Josh Madole (Hampstead, N.C./Topsail) grounded out to second base to bring in the next run and put the Spartans back up 7-5.
VMI answered in the top of the eighth, scoring three runs with Peyton Maddox putting the Keydets up with a two-RBI single to right field.
The Spartans threatened in the ninth, putting two runners on but couldn’t bring the tying run in.
UNCG is back in action Tuesday evening as they host Triad-foe High Point at 6 p.m. at the UNCG Baseball Stadium.