The Blue and Gold are marching onward into the Spring 2017 season. With a non-conference record of 13-8 coming into the weekend, the Spartans begin their conference slate with a weekend series against the Western Carolina University Catamounts. Early conference play will prove essential into setting the tone for the season moving forward. We expect great things from the team as they begin to solidify their identity. Goals for the remainder of the season include getting more consistent outings from the starting pitching, and getting more contributions from the bottom of the lineup. These two things will be essential in deciding how the Spartan’s season will go.
For the first game of conference play, Jack Maynard of UNCG toed the rubber opposite Western Carolina’s Ace Bryan Sammons. Maynard had an excellent outing as he scattered 1 earned run, four hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts of 7.0 innings of pitching. He was able to excellently locate both his fastball and secondary offerings against the staggering offense of WCU. Seven of the nine Spartans in the lineup secured a hit for their team. Standouts included Junior infielder Tripp Shelton who finished two for two with two RBI, and a triple. Ben Spitznagel went two for four with an RBI, Caleb Webster also went two for four.
The Spartan’s quickly seized control of the first game as they seized opportunities against WCU’s ace beginning in the bottom of the second inning. In total, UNCG got 10 hits, four earned runs, and one walk off Bryan Sammons. While UNCG’s starting pitching was strong, the normally steady bullpen faltered. The Catamounts captured three earned runs off of Andrew Wantz, and Chad Sykes combined two innings of pitching. The Spartans ultimately won the game 5-4.
Game two offered a different picture of UNCG baseball. The key issue in this game was the inability to close out the innings pitched. The fourth inning especially was problematic for the blue and gold. Bryce Hensley of UNCG stood opposite of WCU’s Tristan Barker in this game. Hensley struggled to close out the fourth inning and as a result, WCU added four runs in the top of the frame. Overall, Hensley allowed eight hits, seven runs, six earned runs, and two walks, while also contributing two strikeouts to his overall line for the day. Tristan Baker did not have the best day either as he had an overall line of 10 hits, five earned runs, one walk, and five strikeouts for the day. Andrew Moritz and Tripp Shelton led the offense for the Spartans. Moritz had the overall line of three for five with a double, a triple, and an RBI. Shelton continued his recent hot streak with a three for three line that also featured a walk. The Spartans dropped the second game of the series 9-5.
With the series tied 1-1 up to this point, Sunday would be the deciding game of the first Southern Conference schedule. The Spartans ultimately earned an 8-2 victory over the Catamounts of Western Carolina University. Additionally, they took the series victory as well two games to one. It is also worth noting that this is the Spartan’s first series victory over Western Carolina since March of 2015. On the mound for the blue and gold was sophomore Matt Frisbee. He pitched a solid five innings allowing two hits, one run, and one walk, while also adding four strikeouts to his overall line for the day. Andrew Wantz came on in relief of Frisbee pitching four additional solid innings. He allowed two hits, one earned run, and one walk to his line for the day. He also had two strikeouts. Overall, UNCG held the offensive minded Catamounts to only four hits and two runs on the day. UNCG also had an offensive showcase of its own during the game with four players recording two hits. Michael Goss was the star of the offense though as he went three for four, also coming home for two runs in the process. While the Catamounts came on with an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, this lead was short lived. Starting with the bottom of the first inning, the blue and gold tacked on two runs to hold the lead. They would not relinquish the lead at any point in the match.
Overall, UNCG baseball had a solid weekend. With such a strong showing against top tier conference talent, the Spartans feel good about their season. For the season they sit at 15-9. Something they want to see moving forward is a rededication to the basics that win baseball games, solid pitching and clutch hitting. Furthermore, there first series win against Western Carolina since 2015 is a testament to what this team can do. We look forward to seeing them back in action on March 31 in Johnson City, Tennessee as they take on the Eastern Tennessee State University Buccaneers.