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Thursday's SoCon Baseball Championship roundup
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 05/24/2018
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UNCG and ETSU avoided elimination on Thursday
Courtesy: Southern Conference

No. 1 UNCG 11, No. 4 VMI 7

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The bats came alive for No. 1 seed UNCG on Thursday as the Spartans scored nine runs in the first three innings to overcome an early deficit and hold off a late charge by VMI to claim an 11-7 victory over the fourth-seeded Keydets at the Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field.

UNCG (38-14) advances to take on the loser of Thursday night’s contest between No. 2 Samford and No. 3 Wofford on Friday at 7 p.m. VMI has its season end at 26-27, capping off its winningest season since the 2011 squad went 27-24-1.

Thursday’s win marked the fifth time this season that the Spartans registered 14 or more hits and the second time this year they accomplished that feat against the Keydets. Eight different batters recorded hits for UNCG, including catcher Ryan Caveness who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk.

After VMI jumped out to an early 3-0 advantage, UNCG responded with an error-aided five runs in the bottom half of the first inning to give the Spartans a two-run advantage. SoCon Player of the Year Andrew Moritz began the scoring, singling in Caleb Webster before being brought home by Cesar Trejo. Caveness would drive in a run and alert base running from Trejo allowed UNCG to take a 5-3 lead.

The defending-champion Spartans would break the game open in the third inning as Caveness worked a bases-loaded walk to start a four-run rally. Josh Madole drove in a pair of runs followed by an RBI single by Moritz as UNCG took control of the game with a six-run lead.  

Trailing 11-4 entering the ninth, VMI mounted a late comeback attempt as Cody Warner, Matt Dunlevy and All-SoCon first team member Matt Pita each drove in a run to pull the Keydets to within three.

VMI totaled eight hits as a team, led by Jacob Jaye who was 3-for-3 from the plate with a double and two runs batted in, and Pita, who was 3-for-5 with a pair of triples three runs scored and two RBIs.

UNCG’s Bryce Hensley (6-2) picked up the win throwing seven innings, allowing four runs and striking out seven batters. All-SoCon second team member Andrew Wantz came on in relief, pitching two innings and allowing three runs in the ninth before ending the game and the VMI rally with a strikeout.

VMI’s Brandon Barbery was charged with the loss and falls to 6-6 on the season. The Keydets used five different pitchers in the loss, combining for seven strikeouts as a staff.

The SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases continues Thursday with an elimination game between No. 7 seed Furman and No. 6 seed ETSU.

No. 6 ETSU 5, No. 7 Furman 2

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Sixth-seeded ETSU got a complete game from right-hander Ryan Simpler and all the offense it would need in a three-run third inning as it topped No. 7 seed Furman 5-2 on Thursday at the Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field.

The Bucs (28-24) advance to face either No. 5 seed Mercer or No. 9 seed Western Carolina on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in an elimination contest. The Bears and Catamounts square off Thursday at 4 p.m.

Furman sees its season end at 24-28.

Simpler (7-6) allowed two runs on 10 hits in his first complete game of the season. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter, throwing 95 of his 134 pitches for strikes.

The Paladins made it interesting with a two-out rally in the ninth inning, getting a Bret Huebner single before Sims Griffith’s single that was misplayed by Ben Jackson. The freshman left fielder quickly atoned for his error, chasing down the ball in the corner and quickly firing it back in to third baseman Cade Gilbert, whose seed nailed Huebner at the plate to end the ballgame.

ETSU gave Simpler all the run support he would need in the third, getting three two-out RBI singles to overcome a 1-0 deficit. Chris Cook put the Bucs’ first run on the board with his single up the middle to score David Beam, who had doubled with one out. After a walk put runners on first and second, Christian Bailey drove in Cook with a base knock to left. A failed pickoff attempt put Bailey and Caleb Longley in scoring position for Aaron Maher, who delivered an RBI single to center.

The Paladins, who got a Landon Kay RBI single in the bottom of the first, pulled to within a run in the fifth, as Jason Costa singled to left to knock in Huebner, who doubled to lead off the frame.

ETSU put the game away with a pair of runs in the eighth. A single, hit batter and walk loaded the bases with no one out for Gilbert, who greeted reliever Jake Crawford with a double down the left field line to drive in Bailey and Maher. Furman would escape further damage, however, as Crawford got a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to end the frame and strand two runners.

Five players accounted for ETSU’s 10 hits, as Cook, Bailey, Maher, Gilbert and Beam each had two hits. Cook, a senior from Kingsport, Tennessee, opened the game with a single to move him into first all-time in career hits at ETSU. Costa, Kay, Huebner and Griffith had two hits apiece for the Paladins, who also collected 10 hits as a team.

Furman starter Nik Verbeke took the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings of work. He struck out five.

The SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases continues Thursday at 4 p.m. with No. 9 seed Western Carolina taking on No. 5 seed Mercer in a winners’ bracket contest.

May 22 (Tuesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 1: #9 Western Carolina 6, #8 The Citadel 5             

May 23 (Wednesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 2: #5 Mercer 19, #5 VMI 0 (7 inn.)                         

Game 3: #9 Western Carolina 10, #1 UNCG 2
Game 4: #2 Samford 4, #7 Furman 0
Game 5: #3 Wofford 8, #6 ETSU 7  (10 inn.) 

May 24 (Thursday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 6: #1 UNCG 11, #4 VMI 7                                    

Game 7: #6 ETSU 5, #7 Furman 2                                
Game 8: #5 Mercer vs. #9 Western Carolina                      4 p.m.
Game 9: #2 Samford vs. #3 Wofford                              7:30 p.m.

May 25 (Friday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 10: #6 ETSU vs. Loser Game 8                           3:30 p.m.

Game 11: #1 UNCG vs. Loser Game 9                               7 p.m.

May 26 (Saturday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)

Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 9                   12 p.m.
Game 13: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 11            3:30 p.m.
Game 14: Winner Game 13 vs. Loser Game 12                   7 p.m.

May 27 (Sunday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 15: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 14               12 p.m.

^Game 16: Winner Game 15 vs. Loser Game 15              40 minutes after Game 15

^ if necessary

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