CHARLESTON, S.C. – UNCG baseball earned the Southern Conference’s Regular Season Championship after defeating The Citadel Bulldogs 14-3 in seven innings Sunday afternoon. This is the second SoCon Regular Season Title in program history after earning the title in the first season in the SoCon in 1998. The Spartans improve to 37-12 on the year and 18-3 in Southern Conference play. The 18 SoCon wins are the most in a season for UNCG since 2000 and this is the first time in program history that Spartan baseball has won 36 or more games in three-consecutive seasons. The Spartans swept the Bulldogs to earn their sixth sweep of the season and fourth in SoCon play.
“It’s a championship.” Head coach Link Jarrett said, “You work from the end of August to right now to get these moments and I’m so proud of the way our guys executed and delivered today.”
Jake Lewis started on the hill and earned his sixth win. Lewis worked four of the seven innings, scattering four hits and two earned runs. Easton Welch worked the final three innings to pick up his third save as he allowed four hits and just one earned run.
“It was a really well played game all around.” Jarrett said, “(Jake) Lewis might not have been as sharp as he would like to be, but he got us into the game. Easton (Welch) came in and did his thing and was very effective again.”
The Spartan offense scored runs in five of the seven innings and exploded for seven runs in the top of the seventh to shorten the game to seven innings. UNCG’s offense racked up 17 hits with eight of nine starters recording at least one hit and five recording multiple hits games. Austin Embler, Caleb Webster and Dillon Stewart each finished with three hits. Embler drove in two runs and scored three times, Webster added three RBI and scored once with Stewart driving in two and twice. Zach Kuchmaner and Cesar Trejo combined to go 4-for-5 with four RBI and three runs scored in the cleanup spot of the lineup.
“Offensively, we were able to string some good at bats together.” Jarrett continued, “When you can string quality at bats back-to-back-to-back-to-back, whether it’s a hit or a walk, you’re going to be productive. We had a lot of good contact today. There were some walks and some timely base hits and it showed. That’s what allowed us to score in bunches. (Austin) Embler leading off the game with a double was a big moment just to get us on the board; to get the lead was key. We plated another run that inning and Embler later to hit the ball into the gap to bust the game open, get the 10-run rule in play and potentially shorten the game, was beautiful.”
UNCG jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Embler got the rally going with a double down the first base line and was moved over by virtue of a Webster sacrifice bunt. Andrew Moritz followed with a ground out to second base allowing Embler scored on the play. Cesar Trejo reignited the rally with a single and moved to second after a failed pickoff attempt. Stewart traded places with him after doubling to right center to put the Spartans up early.
The Citadel got a rally going of its own in the bottom of the second inning. After a lead off single and a fly out, back-to-back singles loaded the bases. Clay Martin worked a 12-pitch walk to bring in the first Bulldog run of the day. Jonathan Sabo followed with an RBI single of his own to tie the game at two.
UNCG regained its two-run cushion, scoring solo runs in the third and fourth innings. Moritz led off the third with a single and came around after Trejo belted a double to the left field corner. Greg Hardison led off the fourth inning with a single and stole second. With two outs, Webster snuck a single through the left side to bring him in and put the Spartans up 4-2.
The Spartans added to their lead in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Embler led off with a single and went first to third when Webster dropped in a single down the right field line. Embler scored on a fielder’s choice from Moritz who came around to score when Zach Kuchmaner belted a pinch-hit double to right field. Kuchmaner scored on a wild pitch to put the Spartans up, 7-2.
UNCG added to its lead in the seventh inning, scoring seven runs on five hits. Three-straight walks loaded the bases for Embler who delivered a double to the gap in right center. Webster added a single to drive in two before Kuchmaner singled to drive in another. Stewart added an RBI single before Ryan Clinch drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to right to put the Spartans up 14-2.
The Citadel pushed a run across in the bottom of the seventh after a triple from Martin and a sacrifice fly. Welch got the fly out to left to end the game in seven innings.
UNCG returns to the field Tuesday as it will host the Elon Phoenix in the final home game of the season at 6 p.m. at the UNCG Baseball Stadium.