MACON, Ga. – The top four hitters in the UNCG lineup combined for four hits and three RBI, helping lead the Spartans to a 5-3 victory over Mercer in the final game of the three-game Southern Conference opener on Sunday, March 24. The win improved UNCG’s record to 15-7 overall and 2-1 in league action.
Among the top four hitters in the Spartan lineup were Greg Hardison (1-5, run, double), Caleb Webster (2-5, RBI) and Ryan Caveness (1-4, RBI, run). Hardison stretched his season-long hitting streak to 10 games with his first inning double.
The Hardison double to right kickstarted the UNCG offense in the first as he quickly moved to third two batters later when Austin Embler reached on a fielding error at second. With runners on the corners, Caveness delivered a single through the right side of the infield to give the Spartans the early 1-0 advantage.
Mercer (12-13, 1-2 SoCon) answered with two runs in the bottom of the first, on a pair of sacrifice flies, to move in front 2-1. The Bears stretched the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the third with a miscue at third base.
UNCG got its offense rolling in the top of the fifth after a leadoff walk by Jacquez Koonce, who motored to second on his team-best 11th stolen base of the season. With Koonce at third, following a wild pitch, David Flores sent a double off the centerfield wall to score his teammate for the second UNCG run of the game.
Webster continued the fifth with a single through the right side of the infield, moving to second on a throw that allowed Flores to tie the game at three-all. Webster, who advanced to third on a wild pitch, gave UNCG the 4-3 lead when he crossed the plate on a grounder to second by Austin Embler.
The Spartans added an insurance run in the eighth when Hogan Windish sent his third home run of the season over the left field wall for the 5-3 lead.
Corey Jackson (3-1) picked up the victory after tossing 1.2 innings, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out two Mercer hitters. Chad Sykes (S, 4) closed out the final 3.1 innings of the game, surrendering just two hits while converting a pair of strikeouts to the 11 Mercer batters he faced.
FAST FACTS (Game 3 vs. Mercer)
-Greg Hardison extended his hitting streak to 10 games, dating back to a 1-for-3 outing versus Princeton (March 10) in the first game of a doubleheader. Hardison finished 1-for-5 at the plate with a double in the 5-3 victory over Mercer. He has accumulated three RBI and three doubles during the hitting streak.
-Chad Skyes has the most saves (four) and strikeouts (31) of any Spartan hurler on the season. Before Sunday’s game, he was one better than Brandon Stephens who had two entering the game and has four more K’s than teammate Corey Jackson, who has fanned 27 hitters.
-The Spartans have won their last six SoCon opener series, dating back to the 2014 season, after taking 2-of-3 at Mercer over the weekend. That improves UNCG’s mark to 38-29 in conference opening series since joining the league in the 1997-98 athletic season.
-UNCG is now 11-6 all-time against Mercer and 10-5 under head coach Link Jarrett when facing the Bears.
-With the 2-1 series victory, UNCG has now won five of the six series it has taken part in during the 2019 season, posting victories against Quinnipiac, Penn, Princeton, Jacksonville and Mercer.
-Head Coach Link Jarrett is now four wins away from his 200th career win.
HEAD COACH LINK JARRETT ANALYSIS
“I am very proud of the toughness of our team, and it really showed today. (Greg) Hardison hammered the first pitch of the game for a double, and (Ryan) Caveness came through with a key hit scored him. (Austin) Koehn hurt himself by not covering first after a great play by (Josh) Madole. That play probably changed his outing as Mercer scored two runs after that play. (Jacquez) Koonce had a great at bat to walk, and (David) Flores ball off the wall was such a great at bat. (Caleb) Webster had two hits today and played great defense at short. (Austin) Embler had a key two-strike at bat hitting the ball hard enough for their second baseman to mishandle and Webster scored running on contact. (Hogan) Windish had a huge homerun that was a sign of his strength and bat speed, and pushed our lead to two runs. (Chad) Sykes was outstanding again in an extended outing. The play Windish made to end the game along with the pivot Embler made to turn the double play was fantastic. Great road series win.”