GREENSBORO, N.C. – An eighth inning double to left field by freshman Jacquez Koonce helped the Spartans score two runs in the frame as UNCG moved to 14-1 at home with a 7-5 victory over Southern Conference foe Western Carolina in the opening game of a three-game series on Friday evening.
Koonce, who was 1-for-1 from the plate with three walks and two runs, led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to left field. After a David Flores walk put two runners on for the Spartans (17-7, 3-1 SoCon), Austin Embler hit a bloop single over the shortstop’s head to plate Koonce for the go-ahead run. Josh Madole advanced Embler and Flores with a grounder to first with Caveness at the plate. A wild pitch by WCU’s Jack Snyder allowed Flores to come home for the final Spartan run of the game.
UNCG finished with seven hits on the night with Embler (1-4, 2 RBI) and Coleman Sawyer (1-3, 2 RBI, run) combining for four of the team’s six RBI. The Spartans had four extra base hits, with one double each by Koonce and Caleb Webster while Sawyer and Flores added a triple.
Trailing 1-0 in the contest, UNCG had its first of three multi-run innings in the third, highlighted by a bases-clearing triple to right field by Sawyer that scored Caveness and Webster.
In the sixth, with UNCG trailing 4-3, Flores tripled off the top of the centerfield wall to score Koonce from third. Embler plated Flores for the fifth Spartan run of the game with a sacrifice fly.
Chad Sykes (3-1) picked up the win for the Spartans after holding Western Carolina hitless over three innings, surrendering just one walk, while fanning four Catamount hitters.
FAST FACTS (Game 1: vs. Western Carolina)
-UNCG head coach Link Jarrett picked up the 198th win of his career, improving UNCG to 14-1 at home.
-Sophomore Greg Hardison did not play, maintaining his 11-game hitting streak.
-Coleman Sawyer ran his hit streak to 10 straight games with a 1-for-3 outing at the plate. Sawyer’s streak began in the second game of the doubleheader against Princeton, where he went 1-for-3. He has had only one multi-hit game (at Mercer, March 23) in that stretch.
-UNCG starting hurler Phillip Sanderson surrendered three walks in an appearance for the first time this season. His three walks in 4.2 innings on the mound topped a series of two-walk outings against Quinnipiac (Feb. 15), Virginia Tech (Feb. 24) and Jacksonville (March 16).
-Chad Sykes has now recorded at least two strikeouts in a game for the Spartans in 10 of his 12 appearances. He has three games with four K’s and his season high is five, which came at High Point (Feb. 19) and Mercer (March 22).
HEAD COACH LINK JARRETT ANALYSIS
"(Phillip) Sanderson kept our team in the ballgame allowing our offense to find ways to score. He wasn’t as sharp as we have seen him but he did what we ask in giving our team a chance to compete and win. (Corey) Jackson and (Jack) Voigt bridged the gap and (Chad) Sykes was very very good. Working out of the bases loaded nobody out jam allowing only one run was critical. (Coleman) Sawyer’s big double to right field along with (Jacquez) Koonce and (David) Flores delivering key extra base hits was the difference in the ball game. (Austin) Embler and (Josh) Madole making a key play to open the ninth was also good. Western Carolina played a very good game. We were fortunate to come out on top tonight."