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Ellie Arnold/Upstate Athletics

College Sports

Upstate Drops Series To Radford

USC Upstate entered the week on an 8 game win streak dating back to their last loss to Coastal Carolina nearly 2 weeks ago. Extending it to nine would be an extremely tough challenge as they took to Fluor Field in Greenville for a midweek battle with the #21-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Despite a 12-2 deficit midways through the game, the Spartans chipped away with a 6 run sixth inning to pull within 4. However, the Gamecocks would go on to snap Upstate’s streak, plating 2 insurance runs in the top of the 8th while USC reliever Chris Veach shut the Spartans down the rest of the way to seal the 14-8 win.

Upstate would take to the road for their first true road series this season and just their second Big South Conference test of the season, going up to Western Virginia for a 3 game set with the Radford Highlanders – who were picked to finish last in the preseason polls. But don’t let that fool you. They proved to be formidable.

The series started the way that most expected the whole thing to go on Friday night. USC Upstate’s bats exploded in the opener to the tune of a 15-5 win. Grant Sherrod went 6 for 6 at the plate with 6 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Four of his 6 hits were three RBI singles and a 2 run homer. Noah Sullivan tabbed 3 RBIs on a home run that was his lone hit of the day, complementing earning his 5th win of the season on the mound in which he threw 6 and two thirds innings and gave up 5 earned runs on 7 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. Jace Rinehart recorded a pair of runs batted in while Daniel Gernon, Troy Hamilton, and Easton Cullison logged an RBI each.

The remainder of the series, the Spartans’ bats went as cold as the wind chill up in Radford this weekend. In Saturday’s game, Upstate would hang 4 runs on the board without the benefit of a home run. They plated three in the top of the 3rd to take a 3-1 lead. But Radford answered with 3 runs in the bottom of the third and one in the 4th to go up 5-3. It came down to the top of the 9th, where the Spartans pulled within one after back to back singles to start the frame by Daniel Gernon and Troy Hamilton and a double steal. Grant Sherrod added to his RBI total on the weekend with a sac fly to right, scoring Gernon and advancing Hamilton to 3rd, representing the tying run just 90 feet away. Noah Sullivan would follow with a fly ball to shallow right field for the 2nd out. Upstate’s aggressive base running tendencies led to a game-ending play at the plate as Troy Hamilton was gunned out at the plate with ease to even the series with a 5-4 win for the Highlanders.

Daniel Gernon, Noah Sullivan, and Koby Kropf each logged an RBI in the game while Mathieu Curtis took his 2nd loss of the season to fall to 1-2. Curtis tossed 4 innings, surrendering all 5 Radford runs – all earned, on 6 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.

The weather was much more favorable in the finale with the wind bowing out, but it made very little difference as Henry Proger struggled in this game. He went just 2 and two-thirds innings, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits, eventually taking just his 2nd loss of the year to drop his record to 3-2.

The Highlanders would execute the little things all game long while Upstate struggled to get runners on and move them. In the end, Radford clinched the series with a 12-3 win. USC Upstate mustered just 5 hits, led by Jace Rinehart with 2 RBIs, both of which came on a 2 run homer in the top of the 4th. The third run came on a pinch-hit solo home run from Johnny Sweeney in the 8th.

“Losing like we did Saturday, to me, is more acceptable. I thought we did a lot of good things. [Radford] played really well and we didn’t beat ourselves. We had some opportunities we didn’t cash in. That happens in the game of baseball. Give credit to [Radford] again today. Alex [Guerra- second-year RU head coach] has done a good job and brought in a lot of new players. I tried to sell our guys all week on the fact Radford is a good team, and then Friday we won big. They ran three good starters out there and played good defense. They didn’t strike out a lot and on the mound, they didn’t walk many batters. When you do those things, regardless of who you are playing, you have a chance. [Radford] is gonna be a much-improved club all season long” , said USC Upstate Head Coach Mike McGuire to summarize the weekend.

With the back to back losses, Upstate drops to 15-10 overall and 4-2 in the Big South, and despite the series loss, the Spartans remain tied at the top of the conference standings with Charleston Southern. They will get back to action this Tuesday as they return to Harley Park for the first of 4 straight home games, taking on Elon with a 4:00 first pitch. After that, their attention will turn to their first official rivalry series with UNC Asheville. That Easter Weekend tilt begins Thursday evening at 5:00 PM, continues Friday at 5, and wraps up on Saturday at 2.

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