Upstate and Wofford Prepare For HomeStretch
We have entered the home stretch of the 2023 college baseball regular season, with both the Terriers and Spartans down to their final 3 conference series after this weekend.
Upstate came into Friday trailing Campbell, who was off this weekend, by 4 games in the standings with a chance to cut the deficit down to just a game if they were able to sweep the Presbyterian College Blue Hose – a feat that, though very much so possible given the offensive prowess the Spartans have, is much easier said than done.
Presbyterian has been hitting the ball with a vengeance over the last few weeks since their series loss at Winthrop, coming in just a couple of games back from Charleston Southern in the race for the 4th and final berth in the Big South Tournament. Paced by Dalton Reeves and Joel Dragoo, PC had been averaging 9 runs per game over the 5 game span between the finale at Winthrop to the opener at Harley Park on Friday night.
USC Upstate had a good challenger to try and cool down the PC bats in the opener, sending ace Reese Dutton to the hill. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Reese had his worst start of the season. Credit to the Blue Hose. They executed their game plan to perfection, essentially beating the Spartans at their own game. Elton Pollock’s bunch came out swinging hard and early in the count and they were aggressively attacking fastballs. It paid off well, as they were able to do what no other team has done to Reese Dutton all season long.
Dutton surrendered 8 earned runs on 7 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts in 5 innings of work, taking the loss.
Offensively, Upstate got off to a good start in game 1, taking a 2-0 lead on Daniel Gernon’s 6th home run of the season in the 2nd inning. Presbyterian promptly responded with a 6-spot in the top of the 3rd, the biggest blow of which was a Dalton Reeves grand slam.
PC added two in the 5th and 2 more in the top of the 8th before Upstate finally found something at the plate. After Grant Sherrod homered off the top of the batters’ eye in center field in the 6th for his 10th of the year, Jace Rinehart and Easton Cullison hit back to back RBI singles in the 8th. Daniel Gernon added his 3rd RBI of the day on a sac fly that made for the game’s final margin, as in the end, the Spartans dropped the opener 10-6.
Game 2 of the series proved to be just as tough on pitching – for both teams.
PC took an early 1-0 lead in the 1st after loading the bases with 1 out. Dalton Reeves hit a sac fly to center to plate Jack Gorman. The Hose would end up leaving 2 on after a pop up to short, which helped Henry Proger keep the game in hand over the next 2 innings.
After USC Upstate tied things up on a 2 out Troy Hamilton RBI single in the bottom of the 3rd, the Blue Hose responded with a run in the ensuing half inning. Then, things got away from Proger after a pair of 2 run homers in the top of the 5th. Presbyterian added on with an RBI single in the 7th, feeling good about their chances to take the series.
But, not so fast, my friend.. (Props to Coach Lee Corso). Upstate scored 5 in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from David Pereira, a double from Kyle Henington, back to back singles from Daniel Gernon and Grant Sherrod, and a bases loaded walk to Jace Rinehart.
Upstate tied the game on a controversial play at the plate in the bottom of the 8th when the ump said Kyle Henington got in under the tag on an RBI single from Troy Hamilton. Naturally, in a game like this, it had to have a dramatic finish with a heroic moment in extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, following a 1 out double from Cole Caruso, Daniel Gernon lifted his 7th homer of the season out of left field for a 2 run walkoff blast to even the series with a 9-7 win.
With all the momentum riding down East Campus Boulevard, game 3 was going to either be a pitcher’s duel or Upstate was going to finally have the type of game we are used to seeing out of them from an offensive standpoint. We got the latter.
The Spartans struck for 5 runs on 3 straight RBI hits – a 2 run double from Jace Rinehart, a 2 run single from Easton Cullison, and a 1 run single from Ty Tilson, in the bottom of the 1st. That early rally would be enough to carry them to the series win.
Mathieu Curtis worked a career high 6 and a third innings, surrendering just 1 earned run on 4 hits with 4 walks and 3 strikeouts. Trent Hodgdon and Al Holguin went the remaining 2.2 innings, combining to shut the Blue Hose down on a hit with 2 walks and 5 punchouts.
Upstate’s bats added 2 runs in each the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings en route to the 11-1 victory to improve to 28-16 overall, 14-4 in conference play, helping them to remain in striking distance of the Campbell Camels.
The Spartans get back to action on Wednesday at 5:00, as they will host the Queens University Royals before making the trek across the border to Boiling Springs.. North Carolina. They’ll take on Gardner-Webb starting Friday at 6, continuing Saturday at 3, and wrapping up Sunday at 1.
Wofford took a step away from SoCon action this weekend, making a road trip through North Carolina that started with midweek games on back to back nights. The Terriers run ruled UNC Asheville 13-0 in 7 innings Tuesday and nearly deja vu’d that score Wednesday, mercy ruling Davidson 16-6 in 7.
Wofford followed that up with a weekend in Winston Salem, taking on the #2 ranked Demon Deacons on Saturday, and High Point on Sunday.
Wake took an early 2-0 lead, but that did not get the Terriers down.
In the top of the 4th inning, the Terrier bats overcame that deficit and then some. Ryan Galanie got things started with a 2 run homer. A few hitters later, Cameron Gill singled, and coupled with an error on the Deacs’ left fielder, Dixon Black came home to take the lead. Brice Martinez capped the rally with an RBI single to score Gill, extending the advantage to 4-2.
As you might expect though, Wake Forest did what the #2 team in the country should do. They responded to adversity – and they did it in almost overkill fashion.
The deacons struck for 16 unanswered runs over the next 4 and a half innings. Wofford mustered 1 last run in the 9th on a home run from Boiling Springs alum Aaron Thomas, but fell 18-5 in the end.
Game 2 of the weekend went much more ideally for Wofford. The Terriers were the designated home team in this neutral site game at Wake Forest against the High Point University Panthers.
Wofford used a 6-spot in the bottom of the 1st to set the tone and give Matthew Marchal all the cushion he needed for yet another stellar start.
Marchal followed up his best outing of the season in the finale with Samford last week by going 6 and two-thirds. Despite the 3 earned runs on 6 hits, he struck out 7 and walked 1 en route to his 9th victory of the season.
The Terriers cruised to an 11-3 win to split the weekend and up their overall record to 32-11.
Wofford has another tough one coming up in midweek with an SEC road trip to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Vols Tuesday night at 6:30. They return to Southern Conference action Friday at UNC-Greensboro starting at 6:00, continuing Saturday at 2, and concluding Sunday at 1.