UNG Baseball remains tops in PBC with series win
The University of North Georgia baseball team received a tremendous pitching performance from starting pitcher Steven Bower in game one and an 11-run output from its lineup in game three to earn a Peach Belt Conference (PBC) series win against Young Harris this past weekend.
The Nighthawks improved to 26-10 overall and 14-7 in PBC play with the 2-1 series victory over the Mountain Lions, allowing them to maintain possession of first place in the PBC standings.
North Georgia’s Bower had all his pitches working for him when the Nighthawks took to the diamond against Young Harris at Zell B. Miller Field on Friday, April 9.
The red-shirt junior allowed just one run to the Mountain Lions in his masterful 8 2/3 innings on the bump for the Nighthawks. Bower gave up nine hits in the ballgame, but refused to let up more than a run to Young Harris’ lineup. Bower displayed pinpoint control throughout his performance, not allowing a walk while striking out eight Mountain Lions in the contest.
The lone Young Harris run came in the bottom of the second inning when Young Harris’ Tristan Smith singled in the game’s first run to give the Mountain Lions a 1-0 advantage. However, the Nighthawks didn’t let Young Harris hold the lead for long.
In the top of the third, UNG’s Chase Sudduth connected for a RBI single to even the score between the two PBC rivals at 1-1. Sudduth’s run-scoring single began what would become a three-run inning for the Nighthawks, as later in the inning Nick Clarno smashed a double to right center with the bases loaded to score two more UNG runs and to take a 3-1 lead over the Mountain Lions.
The Nighthawks added another run in the top of the fifth when Sudduth turned on a pitch and sent it 420 feet over the center field fence for a solo home run, upping North Georgia’s lead to 4-1. Sudduth had a monster game for the Nighthawks, recording three of North Georgia’s five hits in the contest.
The Mountain Lions threatened late in the game when they loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth versus Bower, but UNG reliever Parker Morrison quickly squashed the rally attempt by coming in and ending the game with a strikeout.
The North Georgia lineup’s production combined with Bower’s strong outing proved enough to earn the Nighthawks a 4-1 victory and a 1-0 lead in the three-game series.
Bower picked up the win and improved to 6-2 on the mound for North Georgia this season.
The two teams locked horns again the next day, April 10, when they took to the field at Zell B. Miller Field to conclude the three-game series with a doubleheader.
The Nighthawks’ lineup stranded 14 baserunners in the first game of the doubleheader and struggled to string together hits when they needed it most.
While North Georgia had difficulty pushing a run across the plate throughout the contest, the Mountain Lions jumped on UNG starting pitcher Derrick Pickvet early with a solo home run off the bat of Zavier Lushington in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead and continued to add runs to the scoreboard, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth, two unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth and three more runs in the bottom of the seventh. The result was a 9-0 win for Young Harris, tying the series at a game apiece.
Pickvet tossed 6 1/3 innings for the Nighthawks and was saddled with the loss, dropping his record to 5-2 on the year. Pickvet allowed all nine Mountain Lion runs and gave up nine hits while striking out three. The four hit batsmen for the Mountain Lions in the game hinted that Pickvet didn’t have his best stuff in the game.
North Georgia’s Bill LeRoy accounted for two of the Nighthawks’ seven hits in the loss. Sudduth, Josh Profit, Clarno, Conner Corbitt and William Mapes each recorded a hit in the game, but UNG was unable to plate any runs.
The Nighthawks’ lineup made a complete transformation when the two teams got back on the field for game two of the doubleheader and the rubber game of the series.
North Georgia exploded for the second most hits its lineup has produced in league play this season when it connected for 16 hits and scored 11 runs to defeat Young Harris 11-2.
Sudduth led the slugfest, going 3-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs for the Nighthawks. Combined with his performance at the plate in game one, Sudduth went 4-for-6 during the doubleheader.
Corbitt got the Nighthawks on the scoreboard first with a three-run blast to left field in the top of the second inning. The Montain Lions got a run back off UNG starting pitcher Cade Heil in the bottom of the inning when Ethan Underwood hit into a RBI fielder’s choice to cut the North Georgia advantage to 3-1. However, UNG answered right back in the top of the third when LeRoy connected for a RBI fielder’s choice to score Crews Taylor. LeRoy’s RBI extended the Nighthawks’ lead to 4-1. The Mountain Lions cut the UNG lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth when Cole Jackson got a hold of a pitch and hammered it out of the park for a solo home run.
The score remained the same until the top of the seventh when North Georgia plated three runs to extend its lead to 7-2. The Nighthawks received back-to-back home runs from Taylor and Sudduth in the inning. Taylor bashed a two-run bomb to right center and Sudduth followed with a solo shot to right field.
While Heil cruised to a two-run, complete game performance by holding the Mountain Lions scoreless over the final five innings of the game, the Nighthawks’ lineup continued to plug away and make the best of their at bats. The tenacity paid off in the top of the ninth when UNG scored four more runs to take a commanding 11-2 lead.
Heil allowed a two-out double after retiring the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth with strikeouts, but sealed the game by inducing a fly out to left field for the final out. The sophomore picked up his second win of the season and improved his record on the mound to 2-1.
The 11-2 victory allowed the Nighthawks to maintain possession of first place in the PBC standings with nine conference games remaining on their schedule and 14 games left in the regular season.
The Nighthawks will take on UNC Pembroke on the road for a three-day series beginning Friday, April 12.