CLEMSON, S.C. – UNCG knocked off the No. 23 St. John's Red Storm, 3-1 in an elimination game in the NCAA Clemson Regional Saturday afternoon. The Spartans see their season continue and will play the loser of tonight's Vanderbilt, Clemson game at 1 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. The Spartans improve to 36-23 on the season and have now won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament in all three appearances. St. John's finishes the season 42-13.
“That was a well-pitched and a well-defended game.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “When our team can get the kind of starting pitching like we got today, and we can defend like we did today, that's our team. (St. John's) Magee pitched a beautiful ball game and he got better as he went. Matt (Frisbee) matched him pitch for pitch. Frisbee's fastball and slider early were big, and he worked the changeup in later. (Andrew) Wantz came in and did better later when he was able to get his fastball glove side.”
“Offensively, getting runs early was nice.” Jarrett continued, “Magee settled in and pitched well. The squeeze was a big play and that's something we work on a lot. (Ben) Spitznagel did a good job of putting that in play and that was a huge run. (Michael) Goss later, that insurance run late in the game is a huge part of our offense and gives you a little extra breathing room going into the ninth inning. Defensively our double plays were huge. One of the key plays was (Tripp) Shelton's double play. To hang in there and backhand that ball on what looked like it would be a for sure hit and a first to third situation was huge. I'm very proud of the way we played up and down the lineup. This is a resilient team, the most resilient I've coached and their competitiveness and toughness showed today.”
Matt Frisbee (Candler, N.C./Enka) logged a quality start in the elimination game. The sophomore went 6.0 innings, giving up three hits, struck out two and didn't allow a run. Andrew Wantz (Holly Springs, N.C./Holly Springs) earned his fifth save, going 3.0 innings, allowing a pair of hits and a run while striking out two batters.
The offense managed six hits, all by different players in the contest. Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) walked and scored a run and drove in a run on a squeeze. Caleb Webster (Randleman, N.C./Randleman) added an RBI single in the first inning, and Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) drove in the insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Spartans got the scoring started in the bottom of the first. Spitznagel drew a five-pitch walk, and went first to third when Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) dropped a single into center field. Webster pushed a 1-0 pitch past the diving St. John's first baseman to score Spitznagel and give UNCG a 1-0 lead.
UNCG manufactured another run in the bottom of the second frame. Austin Embler (Southern Pines, N.C./Pinecrest) and Ryne Sigmon (Danville, Va./Danville CC) led off with back-to-back singles. A balk moved both into scoring position. With the runners moving, Spitznagel laid down a squeeze bunt to score Embler. St. John's didn't cover first and Spitznagel reached on the hit, but the Red Storm first baseman fired to the catcher who tagged out Sigmon attempting to score from second on the play.
St. John's cut the lead in half in the top of the seventh. Anthony Brocato led off with a single and moved to second on a hit and run ground out off the bat of Gui Gingras. With two outs, Troy Dixon doubled down the left field line to drive in Brocato and cut the Spartan lead to 2-1.
The Red Storm threatened in the eighth, getting a lead off walk to the nine-hole hitter Jamie Galazin. After a sacrifice bunt moved him into scoring position, Wantz got Michael Donadio to strikeout before Spitznagel made a running catch down the line in left to strand the runner.
The Spartans added an insurance run in the top of the eighth. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth) tapped a chopper to second that was a tough play for the St. John's defense and was ruled an error. A ground out moved him to second for Goss who delivered with a double to center to bring in Shelton and put the Spartans up 3-1.
Wantz worked a perfect ninth inning, striking out Josh Shaw to close the game.
UNCG is back in action Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. against the loser of tonight's matchup between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Clemson Tigers.