The UNCG Baseball team just wrapped a thrilling three-game weekend series against the Furman Paladins at the UNCG Baseball Stadium, with UNCG winning two of the three games against the Paladins. This SoCon series had everything ranging from amazing weather, rain delays, clutch hitting, controversial calls and an ejection/suspension.
Game one of the series began on Friday with a line of rainstorms on the horizon. Officials postponed the contest after three innings. However, that did not stop the Paladins from racing out to a 6-0 lead.
The contest resumed in the top of the fourth on Saturday afternoon with clear and sunny skies. After strong relief work from junior pitcher Alex Hoppe, UNCG was able to generate a bit of offense and close the gap, only trailing 6-3 heading into the ninth inning. However, Furman responded with a four run explosion in the top of the final inning to seal the 10-3 victory.
Following a 45-minute layoff, game two of the series began with Furman storming out of the gates with another offensive explosion. Leading 9-2 with no runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Paladins seemed to have all the momentum and were well on their way to a road series victory. Then the middle of the Spartan lineup provided three quick runs to trim the deficit heading into the seventh inning.
After two and a half innings of stalemate, junior Caleb Webster hit a two-run shot over the left field wall to cut the lead to 9-7 in the bottom of the ninth. Sophomore first baseman Josh Madole then singled through the middle gap, setting up the game-tying two-run bomb from freshman infielder Hogan Windish that sent the game to extra innings.
Until the 13th inning, it was a battle of the bullpens as both teams struggled to produce offense. UNCG managed to finally gain some momentum in the bottom of the 13th as junior catcher Ryan Caveness drew a walk to get on base.
What followed was one of the most thrilling finishes in recent UNCG Baseball memory. Freshman infielder Zack Budzik won it for the Spartans, crushing a longshot over the foul pole in left field to give UNCG the 11-9 victory.
Although it initially appeared that Budzik’s homer may have gone foul, the home plate umpire ruled it in-play and called the game. Furman outfielder Jabari Richards, who was last week’s recipient of the SoCon Player of the Week, was ejected from the contest for getting in a heated argument with the umpire. Per SoCon rules, Richards was then suspended for the Sunday finale.
After two games of high flying action, Sunday’s contest proved to be a pitcher’s duel. Freshman Austin Koehn got the start for the Spartans and had an excellent performance, only allowing one run in six innings of work. Junior outfielder Jackquez Koonce gave the Spartans their only run during the first nine innings with a solo shot in the third.
Heading into extra innings for the second consecutive game, Sophomore Coleman Sawyer came in clutch for UNCG. He drove in the game-winning run with a single in the bottom of the tenth, sealing the 2-1 victory for the Spartans.
With the weekend series win, UNCG improved to 20-9 on the season and 5-4 in SoCon play. Furman falls to 11-20 on the season and 4-5 in the Southern Conference. UNCG will return home on April 12 for a contest against the George Mason Patriots.