GREENSBORO, N.C. – After a tough extra-inning loss last night, UNCG came back Saturday and swept a doubleheader from Furman by scores of 14-8 and 8-6 to claim the Southern Conference series two games to one at the UNCG Baseball Stadium. The Spartans improve to 12-11 overall and 2-1 in SoCon play while the Paladins drop to 9-15 and 1-2.
The series win was the first for UNCG over Furman since 2009 when the Blue and Gold took two out of three at Latham Stadium in Greenville, S.C.
The Spartans pounded out 22 runs on 26 hits in the doubleheader sweep and tallied eight extra-base hits, including a three-run home run and a grand slam. With a three-run round-tripper in the first game and a double in the second contest, junior infielder Jordan McDonald (Perth, Australia/Chattanooga State) extended his career-best hitting streak to 16 games.
With junior RHP Max Povse (Cary, N.C./Green Hope) toeing the rubber in the first contest, UNCG gave him three runs of support in the first inning on a RBI single by junior outfielder L.J. Kalawaia (Wailuku, Hawai’i/Ohlone College) and a two-run single by McDonald. The Paladins answered right back with three runs on two hits in the top of the second to knot the score at three before taking a 5-3 advantage with a pair of tallies in the top of the third.
The Spartans used a sacrifice fly from McDonald to pull within 5-4 in the bottom of the third and Povse settled down after that, holding Furman scoreless over the next three innings.
The bottom of the fifth started out innocently enough as senior infielder Sean Guite (Huntington Beach, Calif./Irvine Valley CC) struck out looking and junior designated hitter Eric Kalbfleisch (Pilot Mountain, N.C./North Stokes) grounded out to short. However, junior infielder Hunter King (Mason City, Iowa/Northern Iowa Area CC) started a big rally with a single up the middle and Kalawaia followed with a base knock of his own. McDonald stepped up next and drilled a pitch over the wall in left to give the Spartans a 7-5 advantage. After another pair of singles by redshirt freshman infielder Julian Abreu (Miami, Fla./Florida Christian) and freshman catcher Jake Kusz (Durham, N.C./Riverside), redshirt sophomore outfielder Nin Marrero drove a ball to the gap in left center for a two-run triple – leaving UNCG with a 9-5 lead after five complete innings.
The Blue and Gold added to the advantage in the bottom of the sixth as Guite drew a leadoff walk and Kalbfleisch was hit by a pitch before King doubled to left to plate Guite and Kalawaia scored Kalbfleisch on a sac fly to make the score 11-5. King would score on a wild pitch later in the inning to cap the frame’s scoring and push the lead to seven runs.
Despite a three-run outburst in the top of the seventh for Furman, UNCG added single tallies in the seventh and eighth innings to account for the final six-run margin. The Spartan bullpen silenced the Paladin bats in the eighth and ninth innings to seal the win.
McDonald had a monster contest in the opener, going 4-for-4 with seven RBI and a run scored. King and Kalawaia rapped out three hits apiece with the latter driving in two runs of his own. King also scored four runs in the game.
Povse earned the win to improve to 4-1 on the season as he threw five innings – allowing five runs on five hits with five walks and seven strikeouts.
Furman jumped on top in the nightcap, scoring a run via a RBI single by Chris Ohmstede. Redshirt junior outfielder Zac MacAneney (Gibsonville, N.C./Virginia Tech) and Guite singled to lead off the bottom of the frame and Kalbfleisch quickly knotted the score with a single to right field that plated MacAneney.
After starter and senior RHP Dylan Thompson (Snow Camp, N.C./Guilford Technical CC) struck out two Paladin hitters as part of a scoreless top of the second, Furman starter Matthew Quarles recorded two quick outs. That’s when the Spartan offense went to work once more. After Quarles walked the bases loaded, Kalbfleisch left no doubt and crushed a pitch over the right field wall for his second grand slam against the Paladins in as many seasons – stretching the UNCG lead to 5-1.
Furman attempted to rally, scoring three runs on four hits and a Spartan error in the top of the third, but a McDonald double, Abreu triple and sophomore catcher Jake Hall (Asheboro, N.C./Southwestern Randolph) sac fly accounted for two Blue and Gold runs – making the score 7-4 after three innings.
A RBI double by Kalawaia with two outs in the bottom of the fourth allowed UNCG to take an 8-4 advantage and Thompson worked out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings brilliantly to leave the contest with a four-run lead. Junior RHP Brennen James (Taylorsville, N.C./Alexander Central) came on to pitch the top of the seventh and worked a scoreless inning before giving way to redshirt junior LHP Blair Betts (Cary, N.C./Indiana) in the eighth. Betts was able to record two outs without any runners on base, but Jordan Simpson was able to reach on a fielding error and Ohmstede singled up the middle – bringing on another pitching change. Freshman RHP Adam Swim (Greensboro, N.C./Northwest Guilford) allowed a two-run double to Greg Harrison before striking out Griffin Davis looking to leave the Blue and Gold with an 8-6 edge.
UNCG failed to build on its advantage in the bottom of the eighth, leaving Swim to vie for his second save of the season. After allowing a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Cameron Whitehead, Swim struck out the next two batters and induced a foul ball out by pinch hitter Jake Kinsley to end the game.
Thompson (1-2) turned in a very solid six-inning effort to earn his first win of the season, striking out eight batters for his UNCG career high. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits.
Kalbfleisch was the offensive hero in the series finale, going 3-for-4 with five RBI and two runs scored. MacAneney also crossed the plate twice in the affair.
The Blue and Gold returns to action Tuesday as the Spartans take on crosstown neighbor North Carolina A&T at 6 p.m. The game will be played in downtown Greensboro at NewBridge Bank Park – the home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers.