After a five hour rain delay and a comeback victory for the top seeded Clemson Tigers, the successful and championship 2017 season for the UNCG Spartans finally ended with a final record tally of 36-24. For the third time in the team’s history, the Spartans found themselves in the NCAA Regionals for the College World Series.
To get to that point, the Spartans had to win their first Southern Conference title in a, not so competitive, 13-1 drumming of the Furman Paladins that ended after the bottom of the seventh. Going into the seventh inning, the Spartans held a 4-1 lead against Furman. However, the top of the seventh inning saw UNCG’s offense that lead the SoCon in runs scored (438) and hold the highest batting average (.320) batter the Paladins with nine runs. Departing senior Ryan Sigmon hit his second four bagger of the game to begin the inning and retake the four run cushion they had. A two run double from junior Tripp Shelton before he himself was knocked in on a single increased the lead by three. After a few poor throwing errors from the Paladins and more hits from the Spartans, the lead and game was essentially over, ending the titleless drought for UNCG.
In their opening game of the tournament, the Spartans fell behind 4-1 against the top team of their pool, the Clemson Tigers. Lead by the bat of sophomore utility man, Cesar Trejo, the Spartans rallied back by scoring three runs in the final three innings of the contest. Solo home runs from Trejo in the seventh and ninth almost pushed the Spartans to an upset victory against the Tigers. However, Clemson was able to cushion a then 4-3 lead to five. Trejo opened up the top of the ninth with his second home run. However, the Spartans were unable to push another runner across the plate, meaning their season was only a loss away from ending.
Against the 23 ranked St. Johns Red Storm, sophomore Matt Frisbee calmed the Storm, putting up a zero in the runs column for St. John while allowing only three hits. Unlike the game the previous night that saw the Spartans’ offense rely on the home run, scoring three of their four runs off of home runs, a baseball didn’t leave the park for either teams. Instead, freshman Caleb Webster began the game with a first inning RBI single, while seniors Ben Spitznagel and Michael Goss both singled in runs for the Spartans three total runs in the game. Andrew Wantz allowed only a single run in three innings of relief to extend the Spartans’ season and set up a rematch against the Tigers.
The team’s Sunday afternoon rematch against the Tigers was delayed by five hours because of rain. The first pitch wasn’t thrown until 5:49. A three run bottom of the third inning gave the Spartans a 3-0 lead early in the game. Clemson’s starting pitcher, Pat Krall, was pulled after on 4.2 innings after allowing five hits and an earned run. In relief, Owen Griffith was amazing, allowing only a single hit and striking out five Spartans in the rest of the game.
After the three run third inning, Clemson bought the game within one with runs in the fourth and fifth innings. It was the top of the seventh inning that was the Spartans undoing however. A lead off single set the table to a lead taking two run homer off the bat of Tigers’ Logan Davidson. The inning continued with Clemson loading the bases with two out. Though junior Bryce Hensley struck out Clemson’s Andrew Cox for the supposed third out, a wild pitch on the third strike led to another run scored and the inning’s continuation.
A sacrifice flyout from Davidson in the top of the eighth inning doubled the score 6-3 in favor of the Tigers and despite the Spartans putting runners in scoring position in the bottom half of the inning, they were unable to push any across home plate. The game and season ended for UNCG in a quiet ninth inning.
With their first SoCon championship and first appearance in the College World Series since 1997, this season is definitely one for the books for the blue and gold. There are challenges ahead however. The departure of seven senior players will hurt next year’s roster and the bats. But looking ahead, the past two years have been outstanding for baseball on campus, and Link Jarrett have proven to be one of the top coaches in the SoCon. The 2018 team have very high expectations after this year.