GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG baseball scored runs in the final five innings to extend its lead out of the Mercer Bear’s grasp Friday night at the UNCG Baseball Stadium. The Spartans took the lead in the bottom of the second inning and continued to tack on runs while the bullpen held the potent Mercer lineup in check. The Spartans improve to 32-11 and 13-3 in Southern Conference play. Mercer falls to 31-16 and 10-9 in league action.
Junior Matt Frisbee started on the mound. The right-hander went 5.2 innings, scattered six hits, gave up three earned runs, walked one and struck out four as he earned his ninth victory of the season. Jack Maynard came on in the top of the sixth inning. He worked a total of 3.1 innings, allowing just three hits and struck out five as he picked up his team leading ninth save of the season.
“I was really pleased with the way (Matt) Frisbee pitched.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “Probably not his sharpest command, but he navigated it and his stuff is still good enough even when he’s not sharp that he can just collect outs. It all starts with the guy on the bump and what he rolls out there to give your team a chance to get into that ball game and open up your offense. We defended well tonight; I thought we played a really nice defensive game, which obviously helps your pitching. Mercer is a very aggressive team, they had a good game plan against Frisbee. They were on his fastball early, but we were able to turn it over to (Jack) Maynard. When you get good starting pitching and that kind of relief, you’re going to put yourself in a position to win.”
The Spartan offense racked up 17 hits in the victory, led by three-hit performances from Caleb Webster, Cesar Trejo and Ryan Clinch. The designated hitter role finished 3-for-3 as Jake Kusz connected on the first two hits before Zach Kuchmaner added another in the eighth spot of the order. Austin Embler finished with a pair of RBI. Andrew Moritz finished the night 2-for-5 and set a new single season school record by hitting his ninth three-bagger this season.
“I was really pleased with the variety of our offense.” Jarrett continued, “I thought we used our short game well, we ran the bases well and we had some extra-base hits. When you do all those things, even though we struck out more than I felt we should have, we had some big two-out hits and were able to do some things to manufacture some runs. (Ryan) Clinch had a good game, a base hit push bunt, a slash single early in the game and he hit a ball off the left center field wall. (Andrew) Moritz had a key two out hit, (Caleb) Webster had a key two out hit and (Dillon) Stewart swung the bat well. (Austin) Embler executed the squeeze play late to add a run and he had a key two out hit. It was a well-played game. We beat a good team tonight. they’re a really good team. They’re starting pitcher was tough, their relievers are good, they command their breaking balls and pitch to both sides of the plate. Mercer is a very well-coached team.”
The Bears wasted no time taking the lead. With one out, Jackson Ware was hit by a pitch and came around to score after Brandon Michie tripled down the right field line to drive in the first run in the first inning.
UNCG rallied in the bottom of the second inning to take its first lead of the game. Dillon Stewart led off with a single and moved to second after Clinch showed bunt but pulled back and ripped a single through the left side to put two on. After a failed pick off attempt at second base allowed Stewart to score and Clinch to move to third, where Jake Kusz drilled his second career triple off the wall in left center field to score another. After back-to-back strikeouts, Webster doubled to right center to drive in Kusz and give the Spartans the 3-1 lead.
Mercer trimmed the lead in the fourth inning by virtue of a solo home run from Trey Truitt.
The Spartans tacked on a run to regain their two-run advantage in the bottom of the fourth inning. Webster connected on a one-out double before Moritz singled to left field to push the lead to 4-2 in favor of the Spartans. UNCG added to their lead in the fifth inning. Kusz singled before getting pinch ran for by Kuchmaner. After a ground out moved Kuchmaner to second base, Embler singled to left field to score another and put UNCG up 5-2.
Each team scored a run in the sixth inning. Mercer got things rolling with a solo homer from Le Bassett. The Spartans countered with a triple from Moritz who came in on a wild pitch to bring the score to 6-3 after six complete innings.
The Spartans continued to tack on runs late as they took advantage of an error to plate a pair of unearned runs in the seventh inning. Clinch led off the inning with a double to left center. Kuchmaner laid down a bunt, the Mercer catcher fielded the ball, looked to get Clinch at third but the Mercer third baseman was caught in no man’s land as he was charging to field the bunt leaving no one at third base. The catcher turned to fire the ball to first and the throw was wide, allowing Clinch to score and Kuchmaner to advance to third. Mercer went to the bullpen and Embler greeted the first pitch with a well-executed squeeze bunt to tack on another to go up 8-3. The Spartans tacked on another run in the eighth thanks to a lead off triple from Trejo and a sacrifice fly from Stewart.
The Spartans and Bears are back in action tomorrow afternoon for a matchup at 3 p.m. at the UNCG Baseball Stadium.