Spartans Sweep Longwood; Wofford Goes 2-1 Against ETSU
The only thing that can counter the unpredictability of the weather this time of year in South Carolina is the unpredictability it brings to the baseball schedule. Upstate and Wofford were both scheduled to play a Thursday-Friday-Saturday series, with the Spartans hosting Longwood and Wofford on the road at East Tennessee State.
Last time out: In midweek, Upstate went up to Cullowhee Tuesday and defeated Western Carolina in a marathon 13-inning game 9-8. Wofford defeated the College of Charleston on the road at Patriots’ Point 10-5 on Tuesday afternoon.
With the impending rain forecast for Friday, that ended up changing to make for a longer Holiday weekend for Upstate. The Spartans channeled their inner “Mr. Cub” and said “Let’s Play Two!”
There was no rain to be found during the series opener between the Spartans and Lancers on Thursday afternoon at Cleveland S Harley Park – except in the hits and runs column of the scoreboard. Longwood starter Andrew Potojecki plunked Noah Rabon on the 3rd pitch of the game. Two pitches later, Cole Caruso doubled. It began to snowball from there. A passed ball brought home Rabon for the game’s first run. Troy Hamilton grounded out to short to score Caruso, making it 2-0.
The next 3 hitters all reached – Grant Sherrod via a double, Easton Cullison via a walk, and Ty Tilson with a single, plating Sherrod. Daniel Gernon added 1 more RBI on a grounder to 2nd that plated Cullison. In the end, the Spartans hung a 4 spot in the 1st inning, which would be more than enough offense to start the day on a good foot.
Upstate went on to add 4 more in the 2nd, and 5 in the 3rd to take a two touchdown lead to the 4th inning. Most notably during that outburst was Grant Sherrod’s team-best 8th home run of the season – a 2 run no-doubter that he clubbed to the trees behind the scoreboard in left field with 1 out in the bottom of the 2nd.
The Spartans’ bats went quiet for 3 innings after adding 2 more in the bottom of the 4th on back to back to back singles from JD Brock, Cole Caruso, and Troy Hamilton. In the 8th, following a leadoff single from Kyle Henington, former Clemson Tiger and redshirt junior transfer JD Brock lifted one just inside the foul pole down the right field line for a 2 run homer, his first as a Spartan.
Upstate went on to win the opener 18-2. Of those 18 runs, only 11 were earned thanks to 6 Lancer errors.
Reese Dutton earned his 5th win of the season with 5 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits, walking 1, and striking out 6, while at the dish, 7 Spartans logged at least 1 RBI. Troy Hamilton logged 6 on a 2 for 4 game with a triple and a run scored. Cole Caruso had the best hitting performance, going 3 of 4 with an RBI and 3 runs scored. Grant Sherrod and JD Brock both had 2 RBIs a piece on a combined 4-7 at the dish. Easton Cullison, Ty Tilson, and Daniel Gernon also had an RBI each.
Game 2 of the double dip went the polar opposite of the first. The offense ruled the day in the opener to the point it somewhat overshadowed the still-incredible pitching performances turned in by Dutton, AJ Hacker, Trent Hodgdon, and James Strohbusch. But, it was all pitching and defense with just enough hitting to get the job done in the series-clincher.
Mathieu Curtis got the start in a changeup of the rotation, and set the tone for the game early on. He struck out 5 over 6 shutout frames, surrendering just 1 hit and a walk, earning him the win. Chase Matheny K’d 2 more to get out of a huge jam with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out after a walk and a double. Jake Cubbler picked up his 3rd straight save in as many opportunities, logging 2 more strikeouts. The Spartans’ arms allowed just 4 base runners in total in the 2 hit shutout.
On the offensive side of things, Upstate was held to a 1-hit shutout through the first 3 innings.
In the 4th, Troy Hamilton and Grant Sherrod singled back to back with 1 away. Easton Cullison walked to load the bags for Designated Hitter Ty Tilson, who grounded into a fielder’s choice at 2nd. The 2nd baseman made a sliding snag and tossed to the shortstop to erase Cullison. The shortstop made the throw to 1st, but in a bang-bang play, the umpire ruled that the Lancer 1st baseman came off the bag, allowing Tilson to reach. In the confusion and chaos after the close play, with the 1st baseman still holding the live ball, Tilson took off for 2nd and was ultimately erased 3-6 to end the inning, but not before the Spartans stole the game’s first run when Troy Hamilton came home.
USC Upstate struck for a big insurance run in the bottom of the 5th when Daniel Gernon hammered a solo shot out of left field for his 4th home run of the season. Gernon and Ty Tilson led the way for the Spartans with a combined 1 for 6 night and an RBI each.
On a Friday afternoon with very non spring-like weather when the rain moved out but the wind and cold moved in, the Spartans and Lancers were able to get their final round in (something we may not see until Monday down in Augusta, speaking of final rounds..).
Things got off to a quick start on offense for USC Upstate, as Center Fielder Kyle Henington laced the 3rd pitch he saw fair over the 3rd base bag. The ball rolled into foul ground and lodged into the tarp cylinder for a leadoff ground rule double. Knowing the conditions would not allow for many long balls or big extra base hits, the Spaerans went with a small ball approach from there, just trying to manufacture an early run.
Cole Caruso squared up to lay down a sac bunt and did so successfully on the first pitch, pushing it to the 3rd baseman. The throw to 1st went awry, allowing Caruso to reach and take 2nd, and scoring Henington. Since it worked so well the first time, why not try it again?
Troy Hamilton also laid down a sac bunt on the first pitch, but this time the 3rd baseman made the play clean. Nonetheless, the deed was done and Caruso was standing on 3rd with 1 out for Grant Sherrod.
Sherrod added a 2nd run in the opening frame by lifting a sac fly to left to score Caruso. Easton Cullison grounded out to 1st to end the inning, but the Spartans staked Proger to all the lead he would need for his 5th win of the season.
“Hank” turned in a solid 5 and 2 thirds innings, allowing just an earned run on 5 hits with 4 strikeouts. Twice he got out of a 2 on, nobody out jam to help keep the Spartans in front until their bats finally broke through in the 6th inning.
In the top of the 4th, Longwood got 2 men aboard with 1 out – one on a throwing error on Spartan 3rd baseman Cole Caruso and the other after Proger plunked the next man. Henry was able to bounce back with a fly out to right and a 5-3 groundout.
In the top of the 6th, Longwood’s first 2 hitters singled back to back. The next man up grounded to 3rd and Cole Caruso went home on the fielder’s choice to get a huge first out. Proger struck the next man out swinging to end his day. Al Holguin came on and ended the threat with another big swinging K.
In the bottom half of the 6th, Cole Caruso started a rally with a 1 out double down the left field line. Troy Hamilton followed it with a single to put men on the corners for Grant Sherrod, who added an RBI when he grounded to the shortstop. What should have been a double play, but could not be assumed to be, instead ended up being a fielder’s choice force play 6-4 to get a stumbling Troy Hamilton at 2nd, scoring Caruso.
The Spartans used a little trickery to steal a 4th run following a walk to Easton Cullison and an RBI single from Ty Tilson. Tilson took off on a steal attempt and got caught in a pickle halfway between 1st and 2nd. The Catcher threw to the shortstop. The relay throw on the return to 2nd from the 1st baseman hit Tilson in the back, ultimately resulting in him being safe. But, in the chaos of the moment, Cullison swiped home on a delayed steal. The rally ended when Daniel Gernon grounded out to short, but the Spartans took a 5-1 lead to the 7th inning.
Longwood managed to work their way back into the game late, striking for 2 runs off Al Holguin in the top of the 8th and 1 unearned run off Jake Cubbler in the 9th. Holguin went 2.1 innings with the 2 earned runs on 5 hits with no free passes and a strikeout. Jake Cubbler continued his great work by earning his 4th save (his 2nd consecutive). Cubbler sealed the 5-4 win and the series sweep for the Spartans with a hit and a strikeout in 1 inning of work.
At the plate, Troy Hamilton was 2 for 3, but he did not log an RBI or score in the game. Grant Sherrod was the RBI leader with 2 on a 1-3 effort with a run scored. Ty Tilson had the lone other RBI, going 1 for 3. Cole Caruso was also notable with a 1-3 night, scoring twice.
The Spartans, now 8-1 in Big South play (22-11 overall), will face the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia on Tuesday night at 7:00, hoping to get some revenge for the 19-1 thumping they were dealt at Fluor Field in their first meeting a month ago. Then they will hit the road next weekend for a 3 game set at UNC Asheville starting Friday at 5:00 PM, continuing Saturday at 3, and concluding Sunday at 1:00.
Wofford’s weekend started off on a high note Thursday night in Johnson City. All 9 in the lineup recorded at least a single, with the Terriers logging a season-high 21 hits.
Wofford took an early 1-0 lead on a Gunnar Johnson RBI single in the top of the 2nd. East Tennessee State promptly responded with 2 in the bottom of the frame to take their lone lead of the night. The Terrier offense got going and scored in 5 of the last 6 innings, plating 2 in the 4th, 3 in the 5th, 2 in the 6th, 1 in the 7th, and 2 in the 9th.
The most notable offensive fireworks in the game for Wofford were a pair of triples – one by Jack Renwick in the 5th for 2 RBIs, and the other by Trey Yunger in the 7th for 1 RBI. The rest of the Terriers’ 8 runs all came on RBI singles and an ETSU throwing error.
The offense was led by Ryan Galanie, who was 2 for 6 with 3 RBIs and a run scored. Cameron Gill and Jack Renwick each tallied 2 RBIs on a combined 4 for 8, with Renwick coming around to score 3 times. Marshall Toole, Gunnar Johnson, Dixon Black, and Trey Yunger all added a single RBI each.
On the mound, Matthew Marchal grinded his way to his 5th win of the season, going 6 innings with just 3 earned runs allowed on 8 hits with a walk and 2 strikeouts. Luke Stephens earned his 2nd save of the year, surrendering just 2 earned runs in 2 and two thirds innings of work in spite of getting tagged for 6 hits.
Ultimately, despite East Tennessee State scoring a run in each of the final 4 innings, Wofford picked up the 11-6 win.
Friday’s game was postponed, making for a late double header on Saturday. The first game of the double dip started at 5:00 PM and went just over 3 hours. Due to the length of the 1st game, the series finale would end up being just 7 innings.
The 1st game of the double header did not see near the amount of hitting prowess demonstrated on Thursday night. Just 3 Terriers tallied 2 hits a piece. The middle of the Wofford order- Brice Martinez, David Wiley, and Cameron Gill, each logged 2 knocks. Martinez and Gunnar Johnson led the way in the RBI column with 2 a piece. Johnson also scored twice.
Charlie Weber got the start on the bump, but would manage right around his average for innings pitched, going 3 and two-thirds with 6 hits and 4 earned runs to go with a walk and 2 strikeouts. Lucas Mahlstedt went the remainder of the way and ended up earning the win – his 4th of the season – with an earned run on 6 hits with 3 punchouts. Wofford went on to win the series with an 8-5 win thanks to a 4 run 4th inning.
Both offenses went as cold as the temperatures in the finale, which got started just shy of 9:00 PM. Luckily for both squads, this game was also faster than a lap at Bristol Motor Speedway (which is about 30 minutes northeast of Johnson City, ironically).
The pitchers duel went just an hour and 47 minutes. Coulson Buchanan got the nod for Wofford, and he was solid. He got out of a couple of jams throughout his 6 and a third innings. The game ended with 1 out in the bottom of the 7th on a walkoff single. But aside from the 2 earned runs in the 7th that landed Buchanan with the loss to take his record to 3-2 on the season, he struck out 9, walked 2, and surrendered 8 hits.
Wofford’s lone run came on a double steal in the 5th inning. Andrew Mannelly led off with a walk and was pinch run for with the speedy Shane Lussier. Following a sac bunt from Jack Renwick, Marshall Toole singled to put men on the corners. Toole later swiped 2nd to put both in scoring position and with 1 out, Lussier came home on the double steal.
Marshall Toole and Dixon Black both went 1-3 in the 2-1 loss while Jack Renwick went 1-2 at the dish.
Wofford, now sitting 3 games back from Samford in the SoCon standings at 4-2 in league play, will host the PC Blue Hose in midweek action on Tuesday night at 5:00 PM before going back on the road the following weekend to Cullowhee for a 3 game SoCon set with the Western Carolina Catamounts.