Upstate Sweeps Radford; Wofford Takes 2 of 3
This was a weekend for some huge series in college baseball. Obviously, on the national/power 5 level, there was the showdown in Columbia between South Carolina and Florida. On the local midmajor scene, the Wofford Terriers hosted the Samford University Bulldogs with a shot at taking over first place in the Southern Conference regular season championship race. USC Upstate hosted the Radford Highlanders looking to bounce back from a tough series loss on the road last weekend against a resurgent UNC Asheville.
Last time out: Wofford traveled to Rock Hill on Tuesday evening to battle the sun and the Winthrop Eagles. The Terriers got the win 9-2 behind a 4 for 6, 3 RBI effort at the plate from Ryan Galanie. Upstate returned home to Harley Park and had a really tough night, mustering just 1 run on 3 hits in a 13-1 loss to Western Carolina, who like UNC Asheville, is also pesky good and on the upswing as a program.
Wofford entered the weekend a game behind Samford in the SoCon standings, and in essence, needing to sweep the series to come out in sole possession of 1st place. Now, here is the reality – Samford is not an easy team to sweep and this series was likely never going to be swept by either team. These 2 have a history together recently. Last year, the race was tight between the Terriers and Sam U. Wofford dropped 2 out of 3 on the road to the Bulldogs just a week after knocking Mercer out of the race by sweeping them down in Macon. Mercer rebounded by beating Samford the following week to set the stage for the Terriers to clinch their 2nd consecutive regular season title at VMI in their final series of the season.
The Terriers also got the final say against Samford for the 2022 season by defeating them 10-3 to punch their ticket to the championship game in the SoCon tournament at Fluor Field.
This series was a great continuation of the budding rivalry between Wofford and the Bulldogs, and to summarize it in a phrase, it was a perfect example and epitomization of all that makes college baseball one of the best sports out there.
Game one on Friday a toasty Friday evening featured a great pitching matchup between Wofford’s Coulson Buchanan and Samford’s Jacob Cravey. Cravey had won each of his last 5 starts coming in, and carried an ERA of 2.44 with 70 strikeouts. Buchanan, on the flipside, had gone 3-2 in his last 5 and had an ERA of 2.30.
It was a phenomenal pitchers duel between the 2 that Buchanan carried the upper hand in early on. After Cameron Gill broke up a mutual no-hitter in the bottom of the 4th and stole 2nd, Jack Renwick roped a 2 out single into left to score him. Marshall Toole lined a double that deflected off the glove of the 2nd baseman to score Renwick, giving the Terriers a 2-0 lead going to the 5th.
Buchanan managed to work 3 straight three up three down frames before giving up a solo shot in the top of the 4th. He got back on track before back to back RBI doubles in the top of the 6th that ultimately made the difference in the game. The Terrier bats went cold and Samford took the opener 3-2 behind a complete game from Jacob Cravey.
Game 2 was the polar opposite. There were no 1-2-3 innings to be found on Saturday afternoon except for the top of the 1st.
The Terriers jumped out to an early lead, scoring a run in both the 1st and the 2nd innings. Charlie Weber, who got the start for Wofford, managed to get up to the top of the 3rd with relative ease before surrendering a pair of singles to start the frame, and a no-doubt 3 run blast to left center with 1 out.
Wofford promptly answered with a 3-spot in the bottom of the inning, setting the tone for the day. Both squads traded blows all day long, leading to the only fitting way to end a game that really showcased all that makes college baseball great – a walkoff homer in extra innings.
The Terriers and Bulldogs ended regulation knotted at 11, thanks to a Trey Yunger fly ball that just kept on carrying to right field without ever giving the impression it had a chance to leave the yard. It did go out despite chasing the right fielder all the way to where his back was on the fence.
After Lucas Mahlstedt worked around a 1 out hit by pitch, Ryan Galanie led off the bottom of the 10th with a single. He was erased on a fielder’s choice 4-6, allowing Trey Yunger to reach. Now, enter the hero.
Junior 3rd baseman Dixon Black stepped into the box and jumped on the 2nd pitch – a curveball on the middle part of the outer third of the plate – and lifted it high and deep just to the left of center field. It was by no means a majestic moonshot, but it did not have to be. It cleared the fence in a manner that can only be described as a “wall scraper” since it looked like it just rolled down the back side of the fence once it went over, walking it off 13-11 in 10 innings to even the series.
The rubber match saw Matthew Marchal take to the hill for Wofford to face Samford’s Will Lynch, who carried an ERA over 4 into the weekend with an even-keeled 44 hits and 44 strikeouts. This game would be a quick pitcher’s duel, halfway over in just over an hour without the aid of a pitch/action clock.
Marchal carried a no hitter through the first 3 and two-thirds innings before surrendering a 2 out double that still went for naught for the Bulldogs.
Samford eventually did strike first on a moonshot of a solo homer to left off Marchal with 1 out in the top of the 6th. They proceeded to work the bases loaded with 2 out on a double and back to back walks, but Marchal escaped the jam with a pop up to shortstop Jack Renwick in foul ground behind 3rd.
The Terriers answered in both clutch and big fashion in the ensuing half inning. With 2 out and 2 on, Gunnar Johnson stepped in and blasted an 0-1 pitch out of left center to take a 3-1 lead heading to the 7th.
Samford answered in the top of the 7th, cashing in a 2 out walk with an RBI double off the fence in left, but the damage was limited by a pop up to Ryan Galanie in foul ground behind the bag at 1st. But, not to be outdone, Ryan Galanie blasted a solo shot to right with 1 out in the bottom of the frame to re-up the lead to 2.
The Terriers added a couple of huge insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th, cashing in a 2 out walk after Gunnar Johnson drew a walk. Andrew Mannelly followed it up by lacing an RBI double to right to plate the pinch runner Shane Lussier. Jack Renwick then added to the fun by tripling on a liner over the left fielder’s head to bring home Mannelly. After a Samford pitching change, Marshall Toole struck out to end the inning, but Wofford’s lead was up to a grand slam heading to the 9th.
On the mound, Sam Stratton and Dom Marcoccio combined to go 2 innings, surrendering just a hit each, but shutting out the Bulldogs the rest of the way and giving Matthew Marchal his 8th win of the season. Marchal went 7 innings with 2 earned on 4 hits with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks.
With the series win, the Terriers have tied with Samford in the standings. They will look to take over sole possession via some help by means of a Samford loss this coming weekend, since the Terriers will not be in SoCon action this week. They will take a long road starting with a visit to UNC Asheville on Tuesday night with a 5:00 first pitch, a stop at Davidson Wednesday night at 6:00, and a pair of games at Wake Forest on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, they will face the Deacons at 6:00, and Sunday will be against High Point at 1:00.
USC Upstate entered the weekend 4 games back from Campbell in the standings after their rough weekend in Asheville, but with a good chance to rebound and, at the very least, maintain that deficit with Radford coming to town. It has been a rough go of it for the Highlanders, sitting at 8-30 overall entering the weekend with no wins in Big South play.
Obviously, given that information, this series was not nearly as important or as big as the series being played 5 minutes up I-585 from the Upstate campus, but they still needed to get back in rhythm and back to executing offensively the way they normally do. This series gave them that opportunity.
Game 1 started in the best way possible. Spartan DH Johnny Sweeney homered in the 2nd inning. They tacked on 2 more in the 3rd on an RBI single from Cole Caruso and an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Grant Sherrod. A double steal put extra pressure on the Radford defense, and it led to a 4th run on an E6, leading to a 4-0 lead.
After Radford finally cracked the run column in the 5th, Upstate answered with a 3 spot over the next inning and a half, one of which was a solo homer from Daniel Gernon. The 2 sides would add 1 more run a piece in the 8th, with Upstate’s coming on an RBI double for Cole Caruso’s team-leading 3rd ribby of the game, making for the 8-2 final margin.
On the mound, Reese Dutton earned his 7th win of the season, with 6 innings of 1 run ball on 5 hits, 3 walks, and 7 strikeouts. Al Holguin and Trent Hodgdon pitched the rest of the way with a combined 3 innings and an earned run on 1 hit with 2 K’s.
In game 2, Henry Proger continued his season that has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. For the 2nd time this season, “Hank” took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. He made it out of the 7th inning, but not before surrendering 2 singles and a wild pitch, and surrendering an unearned run on a passed ball. That run would be all Radford would muster. Trent Hodgdon and Braden Consaul shut the Highlanders down over the final 2 innings with a scoreless frame each.
Offensively, the Spartans logged 12 hits on the day with 8 of those coming from the bottom third of the order. Daniel Gernon, Easton Cullison, and David Pereira combined to go 8 of 12 with 6 RBIs. Easton Cullison led the way with 3 driven in while Troy Hamilton and Grant Sherrod also logged 1 a piece as Upstate cruised to a series-clinching 11-1 win.
In the finale, Upstate once again struck first, putting up a 4 spot in the first inning. The Spartans continued to pile on with a three spot in the 2nd, 3 more in the 4th, 4 in the 6th, and a 2-spot in the 7th.
David Pereira added a new career high 4 hits, falling just a home run shy of the cycle with 3 RBIs, which ties his career best.
Five other Upstate hitters had a multi-hit game. Cole Caruso, Troy Hamilton, Easton Cullison, Ty Tilson, and Grant Sherrod all tallied 2 hits each, with Sherrod joining David Pereira in the 3 RBI club for the day. Cole Caruso and Kyle Henington drove in 2 each.
Radford scattered multi run innings throughout the game with a pair in the 2nd off Upstate starter Mathieu Curtis, a single run in the 3rd, two in the 5th off Chase Matheny, a single run in the 7th, 2 unearned in the 8th off Jake Cubbler, and a 2 run homer in the 9th off Caleb Costa.
Curtis went 3 innings with 3 earned on 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 strikeouts. Chase Matheny earned the win in 3 and two-thirds innings with 3 earned on 6 hits with a walk and 5 strikeouts. Cubbler continued his great work, surrendering just the 2 unearned runs on 2 hits over an inning and a third while Costa had a “deuces wild” outing – 2 runs on 2 hits with 2 strikeouts over a complete inning.
Upstate will take the midweek off, getting back to action in the Big South by hosting the Presbyterian College Blue Hose over the weekend. The series gets underway Friday at 5:00, continues Saturday at 2, and concludes on Sunday at 1:00.