Baseball Walks Off To Season-Opening Victory Over Duke
GREENSBORO, N.C. – A marathon opening contest for the UNCG baseball team saw the Spartans score three runs in the bottom of the 12th inning to down Atlantic Coast Conference member Duke 9-8 Tuesday at the UNCG Baseball Stadium. The win marked the fifth-straight season lid-lifting victory for the Spartans.
The contest lasted over five hours and was the longest game for UNCG since a 12-inning, 8-7 loss to Princeton March 15, 2010 at the UNCG Baseball Stadium.
“Our guys were really positive all day today and they were ready to play after having our opening weekend taken away by the weather,” head coach Link Jarrett said. “The team was excited about opening day but really kept focused on the task at hand. The guys kept chipping away the whole game, no matter how many times we were down. Our team competed today with poise and character and I am as proud of this team at this moment than I have been of any team I’ve coached.
Everybody that went into the game was competitive, including the guys on the mound. Our team played with conviction and passion and that is what this game is all about. The new guys stepped in with the returners and really did not miss a beat.”
Redshirt freshman outfielder Julian Abreu (Miami, Fla./Florida Christian) finished the contest 3-for-7 at the dish with three runs batted in – including the winning two-run single in the bottom of the 12th. Junior infielder Hunter King (Mason City, Iowa/Northern Iowa Area CC) was also 3-for-7 at the plate with a pair of RBI as eight Spartans recorded at least one hit in the ballgame. Junior outfielder Zac MacAneney (Gibsonville, N.C./Virginia Tech) paced the Blue and Gold in runs scored with three to go along with a pair of hits. As for Duke, Chris Marconcini was 4-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored.
Andrew Istler (0-1) took the loss for the Blue Devils (2-2), throwing two-thirds of an inning and giving up three unearned runs in the 12th. Junior LHP Caleb Henley (1-0) (Salisbury, N.C./East Rowan) picked up the win for UNCG (1-0) – going one and two-thirds innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits with three strikeouts. Junior RHP Max Povse (Cary, N.C./Green Hope) earned the start for the Spartans and went two innings giving up two runs on three hits with three strikeouts.
The Blue and Gold piled up the hits in the contest with 15 base knocks, including a double by MacAneney. UNCG out-hit the Blue Devils 15-12 and the teams combined for three errors in an otherwise well-played contest. The Spartan pitching staff combined for 14 strikeouts while three of the eight pitchers did not allow a run and no Spartan pitcher gave up more than two. All told, the teams combined to throw 15 pitchers in the game.
UNCG had a chance to end the game in the bottom of the ninth, but after Abreu and junior infielder Aaron Wright (Asheville, N.C./Chattanooga State) led off with back-to-back singles, sophomore catcher Jake Hall (Asheboro, N.C./Western Alamance) put down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners. Junior outfielder L.J. Kalawaia (Wailuku, Hawai’i/Ohlone College) was walked intentionally, bringing up senior infielder Sean Guite (Huntington Beach, Calif./Irvine Valley CC). Guite would strike out looking before MacAneney put a nice at bat together, including a flare to left that just fell in foul ground, eventually flew out to left center to terminate the threat.
Duke put together a bases-loaded threat in the 10th, but junior RHP Adam Boghosian (Cary, N.C./Green Hope) worked out of it with a popup and strikeout.
The Blue Devils finally broke through with two runs on two hits and a Spartan error in the top of the 12th and looked to have put the game away.
Kalawaia struck out swinging to begin the bottom of the frame, but Guite reached on an error by the Blue Devil shortstop and MacAneney singled through the right side to put runners on first and second. Redshirt sophomore infielder Nin Marrero (Greensboro, N.C./Western Guilford) followed with a base knock through the left side to load the bags for junior outfielder Nick Chapman (Morganton, N.C./Patton). Chapman would strike out looking, leaving it up to King to prolong the contest. He did just that, beating out a throw from second base that allowed Guite to score and slice the UNCG deficit to 8-7. Abreu then battled to his final strike, but came through with a flare single to left center which fell just in front of the left fielder and allowed MacAneney and Marrero to score from second and third – sealing the opening-day victory.
“We grinded out a win today and I am really proud of my team,” Abreu said.“I had a good approach with two strikes on the hit in the 12th inning and thankfully it fell into the outfield.”
Duke struck first in the top of the second, plating two runs on two hits thanks to a RBI single by Jordan Betts and a RBI double by Mark Lumpa. After the Blue Devils tacked on another run in the top of the third, the Spartans answered with a tally in the bottom of the inning when Chapman produced a sacrifice fly which scored MacAneney who had led off with a double.
UNCG enjoyed a big inning in the fifth, recording five runs on three hits. Hall singled to start things and advanced to third when he executed a perfect hit and run on Guite’s one-out single. With runners at first and third, MacAneney was subsequently hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hall would score on a wild pitch before Marrero and Chapman drew consecutive walks, resulting in the second run. King then came through with a RBI single, Abreu scored on a fielder’s choice play and Wright tacked on a sacrifice fly to complete the scoring.
With the Spartans leading 6-4 after six innings, Duke scratched across a run in the seventh thanks to a wild pitch to cut its deficit to one. Andrew Perez would tie the contest in the top of the eighth with a one-out sacrifice fly – setting up the late-game drama.
The Blue and Gold faces a quick turnaround, returning to the diamond Wednesday with a home contest against UNC Asheville. First pitch at the UNCG Baseball Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m.