GREENSBORO, N.C. – Junior catcher Ryan Caveness blasted a solo home run over the left field wall in the bottom of the sixth inning that helped the Spartan baseball team remain unbeaten at home with a 3-2 victory over Princeton on Friday afternoon at the UNCG Baseball Stadium.
The two teams will return to action on Saturday, March 9, for a scheduled doubleheader that will begin at 12 p.m. The first game will be a nine-inning contest and the second game, which will start approximately 45 after the conclusion of the first game, is scheduled for seven innings.
Caveness, who finished 2-for-4 from the plate, lifted a 3-1 pitch by Ryan Smith to left field that gave the Spartans (7-4) a 2-1 advantage through six complete innings. The Spartans added their third of the game in the seventh when Jacquez Koonce led off with a single to centerfield. Koonce, who reached third on back-to-back sacrifice flies, scored the third run off a wild pitch by Eric Hoefer.
Koonce’s run proved valuable in the top of the eighth, when Princeton (1-3) manufactured its second run of the game. The Tigers drew consecutive walks to start the inning and moved the runners to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by Max West. Max Machiorlette followed with a grounder, scoring Joseph Beckett from third to cut the lead to 3-2. Sy Snedeker worked the count to draw a walk, putting runners on the corners for the Tigers with two outs, but UNCG’s defense closed the door as Austin Embler reeled in the liner to second.
Caveness, the lone Spartan with an extra base hit, was one of three UNCG hitters with two hits on the day, along with Koonce (2-3, 2 runs) and Mike Ferrara (2-4).
The Spartans also received a solid start from Phillip Sanderson who tossed 5.1 innings, allowed one run, one walk and finished with five strikeouts. Corey Jackson worked one inning out of the bullpen, striking out one of the four Princeton batters he faced.
Jack Voight (1-1) picked up the win for UNCG, allowing one run and two walks to the three batters he faced. Chad Sykes (S, 2) came home to earn his second save of the season in two innings of work, where he allowed one walk and one hit while striking out one Tiger batter.
“It was a good start by Sanderson and he really got better as he went along,” said UNCG head coach Link Jarrett. “He settled in and the third and fourth innings were key him because his pitch count got up early, but he was able to navigate the middle part of the game and got a bunch of ground outs in the third and came through with some quick outs in the fourth and extended it into a quality start. Their lefthanded pitcher (Ryan Smith) really has good stuff, good velocity and uses his secondary pitches. I was proud that we were able to use our running game to pressure him a little bit and that created some offense for us.
“Caveness got a ball on the inside half of the plate and he made some adjustments that helped him because the home run ball was really hit well,” added Jarrett. “Corey Jackson held things in check for us and Jack Voight got us out of the mess that we got into in the eighth. Unfortunately, Voight walked two guys to lead off the next inning, but Chad (Sykes) was able to navigate that.”
UNCG broke a scoreless tie in the third when Koonce reached base to open the frame with a single to shortstop. Greg Hardison followed with a single to right field, moving Koonce into scoring position at second. A double steal coupled with a throwing error by the catcher, in an attempt to get Hardison at second, allowed Koonce to trot home for the first run of the contest.
The Tigers retaliated in the top of the fifth, knotting the game at one-all with a home run to left field by David Harding.
“I’m proud of the way that we played,” continued Jarrett. “When you are facing a pitcher like Smith, the offensive creativity and running the bases properly gives you a chance to win because you’re probably not going to string a whole lot together. We are still working on some things, our short game wasn’t good enough today, because we had chances and didn’t bunt well. However, at the end of the day you beat a good pitcher and you take the win.”