GREENSBORO, N.C. – Senior shortstop Tripp Shelton got it done with the bat and the glove in the later stages of Sunday’s 7-6 victory over Samford. Shelton connected on a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the Spartans ahead, before turning a double play with the bases loaded and handling a slow roller to record all three outs in the ensuing half inning. Shelton’s efforts helped UNCG earn its first-ever series sweep of Southern Conference foe Samford. The Spartans improve to 29-10 and 10-2 in Southern Conference play. Samford falls to 24-17 and 10-5 in league action. The Bulldogs entered the weekend with the nation’s third-longest winning streak at 13 games.
Jake Lewis started on the hill. Lewis worked four-plus innings, allowing four hits, three earned runs and struck out four before giving way to Easton Welch. Welch came in and tossed the rest of the fifth inning, allowing two runs, one earned and picked up a strikeout, earning the win. Andrew Wantz came on for the four-inning save. He allowed hits to the first two batters he faced before retiring the final 11 hitters he saw, five via strikeout as he earned his eighth save of the season.
UNCG had a balanced attack at the plate as seven starters all recorded a hit. Tripp Shelton’s hit was the loudest as he finished 1-for-3 with a home run, two RBI and scored twice. Austin Embler, Andrew Moritz, Cesar Trejo and Josh Madole each finished with a hit, an RBI and all scored once.
“I’m really proud of the way the guys played this weekend.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “(Jake) Lewis gave us a very competitive start. In the second inning, (Zach) Kuchmaner really got us into the inning and (Josh) Madole did a great job of executing the hit and run, and him shooting that ball down the third baseline really got us going. We followed that up with three two-out hits in a row in that inning. You can do all the creative offensive stuff you want, but at some point, people have to deliver some big two-out hits to win these high level games and that’s what we did.”
“Obviously the fifth inning was hard to endure, but you live with it and you have to turn the page.” Jarrett continued, “The bottom of the fifth was a special half inning, especially coming off of how messy the top of that inning was. (Andrew) Moritz led off with the walk against (Wyatt) Burns, and then Cesar (Trejo) to have the quality of the at bat that he did to hit the ball that well into the gap. Then with Tripp (Shelton) hitting the home run late, that’s a signature inning for this series for us. Tripp shut down the sixth inning with his defense, turning the double play and then handling that slow roller. (Andrew) Wantz, he said ‘Coach I’m finishing this, I got it.’ Obviously he did and his stuff got better through his outing. I’m proud of the way we played and the way we performed. That was a big weekend for us.”
Samford struck first in the top of the first inning as Brooks Carlson hit a solo home run with two outs to take the early lead.
UNCG got a rally going in the bottom of the second. Zach Kuchmaner led off with a double and moved up on a wild pitch. Shelton was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners for Madole who shot a double past the third baseman to put two in scoring position and drive one in. After a strikeout, Embler, Webster and Moritz all connected on RBI singles to extend the lead to 4-1.
The Bulldogs regained the lead in the top of the fifth inning, pushing across four runs without the aid of a hit. The Spartans hit four Bulldog batters and a couple fielder’s choices brought the runs in to put Samford up, 5-4.
The Samford lead was short-lived as the Spartans stormed back in their half of the fifth. Moritz drew a walk before coming around to score on a triple from Trejo. Samford picked up two outs before Shelton launched his fourth long ball of the season to left field to give UNCG the 7-5 lead.
Samford rallied in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with no outs. Wantz got a ground ball to shortstop where Shelton took it himself for the double play, as one run scored. Shelton followed that by handling a slow roller off the bat of Max Pinto for the third out and hold the Spartan lead at 7-6.
UNCG takes its three-game winning streak on the road next weekend as it heads to Spartanburg for a matchup with the Wofford Terriers. Wofford is currently second in the SoCon standings after sweeping The Citadel this weekend.