BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – UNCG teammates Austin Embler and Ryan Caveness finished with two hits each, but it was a five-run first inning by Samford that proved to be the difference as the Bulldogs took the opening game of the series between the two Southern Conference rivals by a 7-3 margin on Thursday evening at J.L. Griffin Field in Birmingham, Ala.
Embler, who finished 2-for-4 with a run scored, led off the game with a double to left center before moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by Caleb Webster. Embler came home on a single to second by Josh Madole, giving UNCG the 1-0 advantage in the top of the first.
Samford (27-11, 9-1 SoCon) tied the game at one-all in the bottom of the first inning when Jordan Fucci reached on a fielder’s choice that plated Branden Fryman from third. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Ayrton Schafer dropped a single into left field that scored Fucci and Brooks Carlson for the 3-1 advantage.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to three runs following a single to left field by Taylor Garris, which brought home Anthony Mulrine. The final run of the first inning crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Preston Moore.
UNCG (22-13, 5-5 SoCon) got a run back in the top of the second inning when Zach Kuchmaner sent a 1-0 pitch over the right field wall for his first home run of the season. However, Samford notched its sixth run in the home half of the inning with a single to right field by Sonny DiChara, making for a 6-2 contest. Fucci added a home run in the fourth for the Bulldogs to provide the seventh run.
Webster was responsible for the third run of the game for UNCG, lifting an 0-1 pitch over the right-centerfield wall to record his third home run of the season.
UNCG tallied a game-high eight hits, receiving RBI from Webster (1-2, HR, run), Madole (1-4) and Kuchmaner (1-4, HR, run). Starter Phillip Sanderson (4-3) tossed five innings, allowed seven runs (five earned), six hits and struck out three Samford hitters in the setback. He gave way to Jack Voigt, who worked three innings, gave up one hit and fanned three Bulldog batters.
UNCG FAST FACTS (Game 1: vs. Samford)
-Bulldogs snapped a five-game losing streak in the series with the win. The last time that Samford beat the Spartans (7-1; May 19, 2017) was also in Birmingham, Ala.
-Marks the fourth time this season that the Spartans have had multiple home runs in a game. The others came against High Point (2; Feb. 19), Virginia Tech (2; Feb. 24) and Furman (4; April 6).
-Was the third time this season that Voigt has come out of the bullpen to throw at least three innings for the Spartans. The first time was against Penn (3.2 IP, 2 H, 7 K’s) on March 2nd. Just over three weeks later he tossed three innings against Wake Forest, allowing two hits, three runs and three walks while striking out five Demon Deacon hitters.
-Sanderson has now recorded multiple strikeouts in his last nine outings, dating back to a four-strikeout performance against Penn (March 2).
-First home run for Kuchmaner since April 14, 2018 in the first game of a doubleheader against East Tennessee State.
-Embler has put together a five-game hitting streak that dates back to a 3-for-5 outing at North Carolina. He has at least two hits in three of the five games. The five-game streak ties his longest of the season, which spanned from March 26-April 3rd.
The two teams return to action on Friday evening for the second game of the series, which is set to begin at 5 p.m.