CLEMSON, S.C. – After a four hour and 50 minute delay, UNCG baseball fell to the Clemson Tigersin an elimination game at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C. The Spartans took a 3-0 lead before the Tigers scored six unanswered runs to take the game, 6-3. UNCG finishes the 2017 season 36-24. The Spartans won 35 or more games in back-to-back seasons for the third time in school history. This is the third NCAA Regional the UNCG has played in, having won at least one game in every appearance.
“Its always tough to end your season.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “I'm just so proud of the way these guys competed all year. The seniors, for taking our program to new heights, not only on the field, but in the classroom, off the field and these guys carry themselves better than you could ask anyone to carry and handle themselves. When I look back on this season, I think of so many Sunday's that I watched this team grind and compete, with our backs against the wall. That's what I'll carry with me from this team and that's how we won a championship. This is one of the few Sunday's it didn't go our way. We knew we had a tough road ahead of us, but the guys battled, and I have no problem with the way we competed in this regional.”
“I wish we would have executed better at times.” Jarrett continued, “We talked a lot today about momentum, and trying to grab that. I thought if we could have moved (Ben) Spitznagel, after he led us off with a double, to third, I felt like we could get a run on the board and get us going. I know we had the lead for part of the game, but I wish that first inning would have gone better out of the gate. (Dan) Loats pitched great. When you think about our conference tournament, its so much different than what Clemson and Vanderbilt dealt with. Loats started and won a game Saturday, then closed the championship game out on Sunday. These guys have endured a lot of innings lately. These are tough kids, and I'm really pleased with the year in general and proud of these guys.”
Dan Loats (Eden Prairie, Minn./NIACC) started the contest. The junior logged 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits, four runs; three earned and struck out four. Bryce Hensley (Asheville, N.C./Catawba Valley CC) made his first relief appearance of the season, going 0.2 innings, allowing a pair of hits and a run while striking out a batter. Jake Lewis (Wendell, N.C./Corinth Holders) was next out of the bullpen, closing out the final 2.0 innings, allowing a hit and a run.
Ben Spitznagel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wabash Valley CC) and Andrew Moritz (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) paced the Spartan offense. Spitznagel went 2-for-5 with an RBI, a run scored and a pair of doubles. Ryan Clinch (Jamestown, N.C./Brunswick CC) and Ryne Sigmon (Danville, Va./Danville CC) each tallied a hit, with Sigmon hitting his sixth double of the season.
UNCG tallied the first runs of the game in the bottom of the third inning. Sigmon ended up on second base after Seth Beer misplayed a fly ball in right field. Spitznagel doubled down the first baseline to score Sigmon and break the scoreless game. Tripp Shelton (Winston-Salem, N.C./West Forsyth) was hit by a pitch, and Moritz looped a two-strike single into right field and moved to second when the throw home was too late to get Spitznagel. The Spartans ended the scoring when Michael Goss (Cartersville, Ga./Chattanooga St. CC) laid down a safety squeeze to score Shelton and put the Spartans up 3-0.
Beer attempted to make up for his defensive error in the fourth, leading off with his team-best 16th homer of the season to cut the lead to 3-1, Spartans. Clemson cut into the lead again in the fifth, scoring an unearned run. Kyle Wilkie singled and moved up when Jordan Greene reached on an infield error. Two fly balls moved Wilkie around, with Reed Rohlman's driving him in to cut the lead to 3-2.
Clemson continued the comeback in the top of the seventh inning. After a leadoff single from Wilkie, Logan Davidson hit a home run to right field to put the Tigers on top. Clemson wasn't finished there, loading the bases on two singles and a walk. After a strikeout of Andrew Cox, a wild pitch allowed Rohlman to score from third and give Clemson a 5-3 advantage.
The Tigers added another run in the top of the eighth. After a leadoff double from Grayson Byrd, a sacrifice bunt from Wilkie, and a sacrifice fly from Davidson drove in the extra run and Clemson took a 6-3 lead.
The Spartans threatened in the eighth, putting runners on second and third, but couldn't drive them in.