CHARLESTON, SC - The Citadel baseball team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over UNCG in the first inning of Saturday's Southern Conference game at Joe Riley Park and the Bulldogs were able to hang with the high-powered Spartans all game long. Despite the early success by the 'Dogs, UNCG managed to escape with a 4-3 win to claim the series.
The Bulldogs (17-31, 6-14 SoCon) had a great first offensive burst in the bottom of the opening frame as they plated three runs on four hits and one Spartan error to take their first lead of the weekend. Jonathan Sabo got things started with a double down the right-field line and eventually scored when the UNCG pitcher attempted to pick off Jeffery Brown at first, but overthrew his first baseman. William Kinney then batted in Brown with a single to left field, and two at-bats later, Bryce Leasure capped the opening scoring drive with a single through the right side that pushed Kinney across the plate for the third run of the inning.
UNCG (36-12, 17-3 SoCon) got a run back in the top of the second as Andrew Moritz reached with a triple before being batted in by Dillon Stewart with a single to right-center field. Stewart, who went 5-for-5 with four runs scored the night before ended Saturday's game 2-for-4 with one run scored.
In the top of the third, UNCG added another pair of runs to tie the score back up at three-all.
The game then progressed scoreless for just over four innings before the Spartans scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth when Ryan Clinch batted in Cesar Trejo.
The Bulldogs had an excellent chance to make some magic happen in the bottom of the ninth as Leasure led off with a single down the left field line. Cameron Jensen then came on to pinch hit and laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt that allowed Leasure to advance to second. After Taylor Cothran drew a five-pitch walk to give The Citadel two runners on with just one out on the board, the Spartans brought on Andrew Wantz, who got UNCG out of the jam with a 6-3 double play.
Wantz (S, 9) earned his ninth save of the season and Jack Maynard (W, 5-3) earned the win in 3.1 innings of work that saw him give up just one hit and two walks compared to striking out four. Bryce Hensley started the game for UNCG and pitched five complete frames.
Thomas Byelick started the game and gave the 'Dogs a solid outing that saw him strike out five batters compared to giving up just two earned runs and six hits. Alex Bialakis (L, 2-5) came on for the middle two innings and was saddled with the loss while Jordan Buster closed out the game on the mound, pitching two innings of one-hit, scoreless ball.
Kinney, Sabo and Leasure all had multi-hit games at the dish with Kinney going 2-for-3 with a run scored and one batted in. In two games this weekend against UNCG, Kinney is batting .667 (4-for-6) with two runs scored and three batted in and is a perfect 2-for-2 on the base paths. Leasure also went 2-for-3 at the dish while Sabo went 2-for-4.
Leasure returned to his regular duties behind the plate after missing Friday's game and added to an already impressive stat line as he threw out his 21st runner attempting to steal. Leasure entered the weekend in the top 10 in the nation for runners caught stealing.
UNCG was led by Austin Embler, Trejo and Stewart all with two hits.
-per The Citadel Athletics