GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG baseball pulled off a dramatic Sunday night victory over the Mercer Bears at the UNCG Baseball Stadium. After a three-hour rain delay pushed the start of Senior Day back to 6 p.m., The Spartans and Bears needed the full nine innings for UNCG to earn the 6-5 win. The Spartans erased an early deficit after falling behind 5-0 after the first three innings, but UNCG’s bullpen didn’t allow a run over the final six innings to improve to 33-11 and 14-3 in the Southern Conference. Mercer falls to 31-17 and 10-10 in SoCon play.
The Spartans pushed across the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn the victory. With a runner on first, Caleb Webster connected on an infield hit. Mercer attempted to turn the double play, but Austin Embler was safe at second base and took off for third when the relay throw to try to get Webster sailed out of play, granting Embler home and the Spartans the victory.
Bryce Hensley started his 40th career game for UNCG on senior day. The senior went four-plus innings, allowing five runs, four earned and struck out five before giving way to Easton Welch. Welch entered with a bases loaded no out situation in the top of the fifth inning and stranded all three inherited runners. In total, Welch worked 3.0 innings, allowing no hits and struck out three. Andrew Wantz picked up the victory. Wantz worked the final 2.0 innings, striking out two as he improved to 6-0 on the year.
“Bryce (Hensley) didn’t have his command early in the game, but he chewed up some innings.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “Mercer’s pitcher was phenomenal tonight. His velocity was really good, he commanded three secondary pitches, but we chipped away and the guys hung in there. Easton (Welch) to work out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam was the turning point in the game. If they score a couple more runs there it’s going to be really hard for us to battle all the way back. He was exceptional. (Andrew) Wantz was good at the end. He worked out of a first and third no body out jam and the bases loaded jam earlier in the game, those are game changing defensive and pitching type innings.”
At plate, UNCG went for 10 hits, led by a 3-for-3 performance from Andrew Moritz. Moritz drove in a run, scored twice and hit his 10th triple of the season. Ryan Caveness added a 2-for-2 day with two doubles and scored a run. Dillon Stewart and Webster each finished with two hits, Stewart drove in a pair while Webster’s final hit resulted in the play that gave UNCG the victory.
“(Ryan) Caveness had a good day at the plate.” Jarrett continued, “(Josh) Madole laid down a nice bunt, Austin (Embler) drove in a run. (Andrew) Moritz and (Dillon) Stewart had consecutive good at bats in the fourth inning to get us back into it. Tripp (Shelton) drove in a run. Up and down the lineup we had good, productive at bats. Stewart had a base hit off of (Robert) Broom who’s one of the top relievers in the country to tie that game up really kept the momentum with us. We were down so much early but the guys clawed back into it. I’m very proud of the way we played today and competed. As hard as it was early in the game, the guys persevered and had character and continued to grind it out. Really good win for us.”
Mercer jumped out early, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. With one out, RJ Yeager and Trey Truitt connected on back-to-back singles. Brandon Michie singled to drive in one before another single from Jackson Ware scored the second run of the inning. Le Bassett singled again to drive in the third run of the game before UNCG recorded the final out to retire the side.
The Bears added to their lead in the top of the third inning. Michie reached on a throwing error before a sacrifice bunt moved him up. JT Thomas lined a triple to right center to drive in the run before coming around on a Bassett single to take the 5-0 lead.
UNCG cut into the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a lead off single from Moritz, Stewart drove a double off the top of the wall in right field to score one. After moving up on a wild pitch, Stewart came around after Tripp Shelton ground out to the Mercer shortstop to cut the lead to 5-2.
The Spartans weren’t done there as they pushed three runs across in the fifth inning to tie the game up at five. Ryan Caveness got the inning rolling with a double before moving up on a Josh Madole sacrifice bunt. Embler brought him in on a ground out before Webster ignited a two-out rally. Moritz hit his 10th triple of the season to bring in one. After an intentional walk to Cesar Trejo and a pitching change, Stewart came up clutch as he drove the first pitch he saw to center field to score Moritz and knot the game at five.
UNCG rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn the victory. With one out, Embler was hit by a pitch to put the winning run on. Webster followed by driving a high chopper to the Mercer shortstop who attempted to get Embler at second. Embler slid in safe and the relay throw to try to get Webster sailed out of play. Embler had taken off for third on the throw and was granted home plate by the umpire as UNCG earned the victory.