Wofford Honors Seniors; Upstate beats CSU
As the 2023 college baseball regular season continues to wind down, the races for conference tournament seeding and regular season championships have reached their boiling point.
Over the last week, USC Upstate went 4-1, defeating Queens University back on May the 3rd in comeback fashion, overcoming an early 5-0 deficit, and shutting the Royals down over the final 5 innings thanks to a great performance from Derek Sivec to earn the win in relief, and scoring 10 unanswered runs in that same span, for a 14-7 win. Notably, Grant Sherrod broke a division 1 era record (dating back to 2007) for most home runs in a season with his 12th.
This past weekend, the Spartans swept Gardner-Webb on the road, with Reese Dutton picking up his 8th win on the bump of the year in a 5-1 series-opening win. Henry Proger pitched a career-high 8 innings with 10 strikeouts while the Spartans broke yet another D1 era record, this time for the most stolen bases in a season with 2 of them in the 4-0 shutout. Upstate pulled away in the finale for an 11-6 win to complete the sweep.
The midweek was not nearly as kind as the Spartans fell 9-2 on the road at UGA.
Wofford lost at Tennessee on the 3rd, getting run-ruled 13-3 in 7 innings before returning to Southern Conference action at UNC-Greensboro this past weekend with a shot to claim the top spot in the SoCon standings. Sadly, it was not meant to be.
In game 1, Greensboro walked it off 3-2 in 10 innings. Game 2 was much more Wofford-like, with the Terriers setting the pace early. Dixon Black hit one of 3 triples for Wofford – the other 2 coming from Brice Martinez and Andrew Mannelly. Those, plus 3 multi-run innings was enough to even the series with a 13-3 win. The rubber match got off to a similar start to game 2, minus the triples, with Wofford scoring 2 runs in the 1st. But, ultimately, they fell 6-3 to drop a SoCon series for the first time this season.
Tuesday, the Terriers rebounded with a 7-2 win at Georgia State.
This weekend was the final home series of the season, and Wofford honored their seniors. It was quite the huge series, as they hosted SoCon leader Mercer. The Terriers entered the weekend third in the standings, a game back from Samford and 2 games back from the Bears. A win or sweep in this series could have set the stage for Wofford to be the regular season champion.
The opener was delayed nearly 2 hours by some weather moving through, but once they got started, the evening turned out to be perfect for what would be an exciting game. Coulson Buchanan took to the mound for the Terriers for his 16th start of the season. Buchanan entered the weekend with 75 strikeouts, ranking him 2nd in the SoCon. He added 9 more in a 6 inning 4 hit effort Friday night.
Buchanan’s biggest problem was the story of the series in the end. In each of the 1st 2 innings, Coulson surrendered a no-doubt home run with 2 outs. Each of those 2 was a solo shot. But, after giving up his first of just 2 walks on the night in the top of the 4th, he gave up yet another 2 out no doubter to give Mercer a 4-1 lead.
Wofford’s bats managed to rally back in the middle innings to help pick Coulson Buchanan up. In the 5th, following an IBB to Ryan Galanie, Trey Yunger lined a double to the left field corner to plate 2 and bring it back within a run.
The next inning, a Brice Martinez leadoff walk and a single from Cameron Gill back to back followed by a bunt by Gunnar Johnson led to the Terriers scoring 3 on a David Wiley single, a Jack Renwick suicide squeeze, and a Marshall Toole RBI single, taking a 6-4 lead to the 7th.
Unfortunately, Lucas Mahlstedt, who has been so consistently solid in relief all season, struggled with command, leading to a 2 run single to tie it at 6. Mahlstedt grinded his way through the rest of the game, continuously getting out of jams, but credit to Mercer’s pitching. They held Wofford hitless over the final 3 innings. Credit to the Bears’ bats as well. They took advantage of Mahlstedt’s control issues late. He walked the bases loaded with 2 out in the 9th, and with 2 strikes, the 2 out no doubter trend reared its head one last time with a go-ahead grand slam. The Terriers went down quickly in the bottom of the frame to fall 10-6.
The 2nd game of the series was just as back and forth as the first. Wofford jumped ahead early on a David Wiley RBI triple and an E6 off the bat of Andrew Mannelly that plated Wiley. Mercer responded with… A pair of 2 out homers, one of which was a 2 run shot, giving them a 3-2 lead.
The Terriers leapt back in front on a 2 run homer from Andrew Mannelly in the 4th before once again the Bears put up back to back long balls to go ahead for good 6-4.
They added on with a 2 out 2 run shot in the 6th and and RBI grounder in the 8th. While Wofford kept chipping away with homers from Ryan Galanie and Aaron Thomas that pulled them within 2, Mercer added a huge insurance run on a sac fly in the 9th.
The Terriers threatened to make a big finish of it in the bottom of the 9th, but ultimately could only muster 1 run on a Trey Yunger RBI single, as Mercer went on to win the series with a 10-8 W.
Things started off like a pitcher’s duel in the finale, as both teams were shut out through the first 2 innings. Mercer cracked the goose egg in the top of the 3rd with an RBI single. Wofford answered with a 2 run line drive homer out of left by Trey Yunger to take a 2-1 lead to the 4th.
A 1 out solo shot tied it at 4 in the ensuing half inning. But once again, Wofford responded nicely. Cameron Gill led off the home 4th with a double and came home on a 2 out single from Jack Renwick. The Terriers threatened further with back to back singles after that, but Ryan Galanie struck out to leave them on.
The lead was short-lived. The tying run reached on an E4 to start the Mercer 5th and came around after back to back sac flies, making for a 4-4 game heading to the bottom of the frame.
The Bears finally took the lead for good in the top of the 6th on a 1 out RBI double, and they added on with yet another no-doubt 2 out 2 run homer. Wofford managed to cut it back to a 2 run game in the bottom of the 7th by cashing in a 1 out single from Ryan Galanie with a wild pitch and an RBI sac fly from Trey Yunger. Mercer added a run in both the 8th and 9th innings, securing the sweep with an 8-4 win, eliminating any chance of Wofford winning a 3rd straight SoCon regular season title.
The Terriers will play their final 3 games of the regular season at the Citadel next week, and can only finish as well as 3rd in the standings, which would give them a 1st round bye to the SoCOn tournament in Greenville in 2 weeks.
USC Upstate went on the road for their penultimate series of the season, heading to Goose Creek to take on Charleston Southern. The Spartans rolled out Reese Dutton to try and shut down a CSU team that, despite their .500 record in conference and sub .500 record overall, have been able to hit and score runs in bunches all season long.
He did, but that was not to say the Bucs made things easy. Upstate jumped ahead early with a run in the top of the 1st. On cue, CSU answered with 2 in the home half. The Spartans hung a 2 spot in the ensuing half inning to reclaim the lead for good.
Dutton worked 6 innings, allowing 3 earned on 6 hits with a walk and 4 strikeouts, adding to his Big South Conference-leading 9th win of the season. Chase Matheny and Jake Cubbler combined to go the final 3 innings, surrendering 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits. The inning and a third thrown by Cubbler ended up becoming a save – his 6th of the season, which ties the Big South Conference lead.
At the plate, Kyle Henington launched his first career home run and Jake Armsey tabbed his first career multi-RBI game as the Spartans held on to open the series with a 7-6 win. The win also made for Upstate’s best-ever 18th conference victory.
The 2nd game of the series saw no records broken for a change. USC Upstate starter Henry Proger continued his trend of swinging like a pendulum that has spanned most of the season save for the first 3 weeks, this time going in the wrong direction. Charleston Southern got something going early, loading the bases in the first inning and scratching across a run on a bases-loaded walk. Proger rebounded nicely, getting the next 3 in order on consecutive strikeouts.
Jace Rinehart knotted things up with his 6th home run of the year, and his 3rd in the last 4 games, in the top of the 2nd.
Neither team would have anything else going until the first 2 Buccaneer hitters of the 3rd inning reached. But once again, Hank Proger bounced back with 3 straight K’s.
CSU would finally get to Proger again in the 4th with a 2 run homer that gave them the lead for good. They hit back to back jacks in the 7th and hung a 5 spot in the 8th. Upstate managed just 1 more run on a solo homer from Adam Grob, falling 10-2 to force a rubber game.
That rubber game was all Spartans. Mathieu Curtis set the tone for the game early, sitting CSU in order on 11 pitches. Then the Upstate bats gave him all the cushion he would need in the top of the 2nd.
Easton Cullison led off the inning with a double and stole 3rd with 1 out. Adam Grob doubled him home to go up 1-0. Upstate added 2 more runs on an error on a pickoff throw and a Jake Armsey RBI single to take a 3-0 lead to the home 2nd.
Mathieu Curtis surrendered just 2 runs, both coming on a 2 run homer in the bottom of the 3rd. He went 7 innings with 4 hits, striking out 6 along the way to earn his 6th win of the season. Al Holguin pitched the last 2 innings, adding 3 K’s of his own with just 1 hit in the shutout frames.
Upstate added a run in the 4th, 2 in the 5th, a pair in the 7th, and two more in the 8th, a total of 7 unanswered, taking the series with a 10-2 win.
The Spartans will go to Clemson for their final midweek game on Tuesday night, with first pitch set for 6:00. They will then wrap up the regular season with a showdown at home against the Campbell Camels. A sweep would make Upstate the regular season Big South Conference champions. The action begins Thursday night at 5:00.