SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Senior Tripp Shelton tied a career-high by driving in five runs in an 11-5 victory over the Wofford Terriers Saturday evening. Shelton homered in the second and third innings as he put UNCG up 4-0 early. The Spartans rode a strong pitching performance from Bryce Hensley and Easton Welch as they evened the three game series at a game each. UNCG is now 30-11 and 11-3 in Southern Conference play. Wofford is now 29-15 and 10-4 in league action.
Bryce Hensley started on the hill for UNCG. The senior southpaw threw 6.0 innings, allowed just four hits, two earned runs and struck out six to earn his fifth win of the season. Easton Welch came on in the seventh and pitched effectively for three innings, punching out five hitters without walking a batter to earn his second save.
Along with driving in five runs, Shelton was on the bases all day as he scored four runs as part of the 4-for-5 performance. Dillon Stewart added a 2-for-4 day with a double. Andrew Moritz went 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBI and scored twice. Josh Madole added a two-hit day, drove in a run and scored twice. The Spartan offense racked up 15 hits and 11 RBI in the win. UNCG struck out just three times after tying the most team strikeouts in a game in the Link Jarrett era with 17 last night.
“We got a great start out of Bryce (Hensley) today.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “That’s key when you’re coming off of a tough loss like we had last night. You have to have someone who can go out there and start and get you into it. I’m very proud of the way he pitched. It was good to see Easton (Welch) out there to close it out.”
“Tripp (Shelton) had a fantastic day, hitting a couple balls out of the park, driving in five runs and having another base hit to right that we needed” Jarrett continued, “We did a lot of good things offensively. Our bunting game was effective today and we ran the bases well. The ball where (Jake) Kusz slashed and lined out to left, Tripp had great feel to not extend himself too much and was able to tag and advance, then we squeezed, that was a big moment. Defense was solid today. (Ryan) Caveness, the back pick at first base with the bases loaded was a huge momentum saver for us. They were getting back into it and that was a big out. That’s a bounce back win that’s as good as I’ve seen. For as tough as it was last night, to come out today and play that caliber today, offensively, defensively, on the mound, on the bases, says a lot about our guys. This is a tough group and they showed it today.”
Shelton put the Spartans up early by launching his fifth home run of the season to lead off the top of the second inning.
Caleb Webster got the rally going in the top of the third inning. The sophomore hit a chopper towards third and the throw was high, allowing Webster to reach. Andrew Moritz pushed a bunt hit up the third baseline to put two on. After a fly out, Shelton hammered the first pitch he saw over the wall in left to put UNCG up 4-0.
The Spartans added to their lead in the top of the fourth inning. Madole led off with a single to center field before Austin Embler reached on a bunt single. Webster sacrificed to move both runners over for Moritz who flew out to right field to drive in a run and put UNCG up 5-0.
UNCG started another rally in the top of the fifth inning. Shelton got things rolling again, this time going the other way on a two-strike pitch for a single. Stewart chopped a single through the left side to put two on. After Shelton moved up on the fly out from Jake Kusz, Ryan Caveness laid down the squeeze play to tack one on. Madole drove a single to left to score Stewart before stealing his second base of the year. Embler followed with another single to left to drive him in and put UNCG up, 8-0.
The Terriers got on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning. After loading the bases by virtue of a walk, a single and a hit batter, Caveness picked off the runner at first, but Colin Davis tripled to center field to score two.
Moritz answered in the top of the sixth as he led the frame off with a solo home run over the scoreboard in right field. After going scoreless in the seventh, UNCG tacked on two more in the eighth thanks to an RBI single from Shelton and a pinch-hit ground out with a runner on third from Greg Hardison.
Wofford pushed across three runs in the bottom of the eighth. A one-out double from Davis and a McClain Bradley single scored one before and Andrew Orzel two-run home run cut the lead down to 11-5. Welch struck out two Terriers in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the victory.
The Spartans and Terriers have split the first two games of the series, and the winner of tomorrow’s finale at 1 p.m. will have sole possession of first place in the SoCon standings with three weekends remaining.