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Spartans Take Two From Penn

USC Upstate baseball has managed to get back to the type of numbers they are accustomed to after starting the season 0-3, having been swept by Kentucky. In their first midweek contest of the season, they beat Western Carolina 16-9 behind a 5 spot in the 5th inning. The Spartans had 2 home runs from Jace Rinehart, and another from Troy Hamilton as well as 5 doubles – 2 each from Grant Sherrod and David Pereira as well as one from Vance Sheahan.


They kept the momentum going by going 3-0 in the OneSpartanburg, Inc Classic a week ago, outscoring their three opponents – Quinnipiac, Canisius, and Saint Joseph’s – 41-6. That string of 4 games helped Upstate find some confidence as the schedule toughened. In midweek this past Tuesday, Upstate went toe-to-toe with the #10-ranked Clemson Tigers. The Spartans scored single runs in the 2nd and 3rd, and two in both the 4th and 5th innings before being shut down the rest of the way as Clemson scored 6 over the last 3 innings to win it 12-6.


This weekend, the Spartans welcomed the Ivy League preseason favorite Pennsylvania Quakers. Rain on Friday forced the opener to be moved to Saturday as part of a double header – which could not have gotten off to a better start for the Spartans’ bats.


USC Upstate put the game away in the bottom of the 1st, sending 12 men to the plate and scratching across 9 runs on 7 hits. Grant Sherrod, Koby Kropf, and Troy Hamilton each homered in the frame. Ryan Fluharty also hit his first four bagger as a Spartan on a pinch hit 2 run blast in the bottom of the 8th. Offensively, Upstate was led by Grant Sherrod and Koby Kropf, each tallying 3 RBIs while Daniel Gernon and Troy Hamilton both had 2 runs batted in, with Hamilton going 4 for 5 at the dish.


Noah Sullivan earned his 2nd win of the season on the mound, hurling 5 shutout innings with 2 hits, a walk, and 7 strikeouts. Julian Parson struck out 5 more in 2 innings of relief despite 2 earned runs on three hits in the 14-4 series-opening win.


Game 2 of the series, it looked as if the Spartans were going to pick up where they left off, scratching across single runs in both the 1st and 2nd innings. Upstate held on to that 2-0 lead up until the top of the 4th, when Penn started the inning with back to back singles. They would later plate their first on a fielders choice play and another unearned on a grounder to 1st that kicked off the heel of Grant Sherrod’s glove for an E3. The very next batter singled home the go-ahead run.


After a solo shot in the 5th that made it 4-2 in favor of Penn, Noah Sullivan blasted a 3 run shot of his own out of left field to put the Spartans back in front 5-4. That was erased the next half inning as once again the Quakers smacked a no doubt solo shot to tie it at 5. In the end, the story was freshman right hander Cooper Ellingworth. He came in to relieve Mathieu Curtis in the 6th inning. In his first 2 innings, he walked one, struck out 2, and gave up an earned run on a solo homer. But things quickly turned south in the top of the 9th. He recorded one more out before giving way to Tommy Henninger, but gave up 4 more hits and 5 more earned runs (1 unearned), resulting in Penn evening the series with an 11-5 win.


The series finale on Sunday afternoon saw the Spartans fall behind 1-0 in the top of the 1st. But, that lone run was all the Quakers could muster as Henry Proger pitched an absolute gem. He threw a complete game with just the 1 earned on three hits, a walk, a hit batsman, and 5 strikeouts. The defense was great behind him even after he made mistakes. After his HBP and after Upstate had a couple of errors, they turned 3 double plays behind him to avoid trouble.


The story on the offensive side was Grant Sherrod, who recorded a school record 8 RBIs on a 3 for 4 day with 2 home runs – a 2 run shot in the bottom of the 1st and a 3 run blast in the bottom of the 8th. He also knocked in 2 more on a single in the 4th. Koby Kropf also had a multi-homer game, hitting solo shots in both the 5th and the 7th innings as USCU cruised to a series-clinching 12-1 victory.


“The long ball gets a lot of attention. We have a lot of guys capable of hitting double digit home runs over the course of the year. But, what I like most happened Sunday. We hung a three spot in the 2nd, ran the bases and went 1st to 3rd and hit well situationally. Those are recipes for success. You have to be able to do those things, and you can’t live and die by the home run”, said Coach Mike McGuire.


“I thought we had really good at-bats and took our ‘free stuff’. We had some different guys at the bottom of the lineup that hadn’t played as much, but they found ways to get on base. The guys they replaced have more experience, but historically, the new guys have shown they can get on base more than the guys they replaced and it showed true”, McGuire added.


Obviously, with a team as good as Penn, to go 2-1 is definitely something McGuire was pleased with.


“That’s a good club. By the end of the year, they’re gonna win 35 games and be in the top 100 in RPI. This is a good series win for us. We moved on from our mistakes – it is impossible to play a clean game, that just doesn’t happen in baseball. There were a couple of things that happened on the bases I feel were mistakes. We will learn from them and be better because of it. With a big midweek series coming up at Coastal, getting the longevity out of Hank (Henry Proger) was huge because it saved our bullpen.”


The Spartans have a 5-game week coming up, playing 2 at Coastal Carolina on Tuesday at Wednesday with first pitch set for 4:00 PM. Then they will return to Harley Park for a 3 game weekend set with Rider University. Game one is set for 3:00 Friday, the middle game is set for 2:00 Saturday, and the finale will be at 1:00 Sunday.




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