Connor Grainger takes a swing at a pitch against Wingate. Photo by Carlisa Williams
It was Pizza Night at Sammy Cox Field on March 13. Braves baseball was coming off of its worst series of the season against Columbus State.
The team needed a big win to get back on track and it got it. It was sloppy and there were multiple errors from both teams. UNCP managed to make fewer mistakes than the Wingate Bulldogs and came out with the 9-6 win.
“We’ve got to clean some things up,” head coach Paul O’Brien said. “There’s some things where we made mistakes in the game that don’t show up in the box score that you cannot do against regional opponents.”
Pembroke got on the board first in the second inning with an RBI double from Connor Grainger. They tacked on five extra runs through the next two innings and gained a 6-0 lead after the fourth. The Black and Gold let Wingate back in the game in the sixth inning.
Trace Hagler and Aaron Biggerstaff gave up three runs a piece and allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game at six. However, it didn’t take long for the Braves to regain the lead.
Roberto Rivera answered in the bottom of the sixth, a RBI single to score Seth Hartings and take the one run lead. That lead was extended in the seventh after Ethan Baucom hit a two-run homer to left field and gave UNCP a 9-6 advantage.
Pitching kept Wingate at bay and didn’t allow them to score for the rest of the game. Gunner Deal came in and slammed the door in the ninth to get the save in an efficient 11-pitch inning. It was nice to see some of the bullpen arms get back on track and manage to keep Pembroke in the game.
Southpaw Thomas Durant has struggled in every outing he’s been in so far, but he pitched two innings of one-hit ball in this one.
He dropped his ERA down to a still robust 20.25 for the season. Cole Lovin got a chance to start in only his second game of the season. He is usually a middle inning bullpen arm for coach O’Brien.
“I thought Cole Lovin looked very well,” O’Brien said. “Thomas went out there, and his first inning was phenomenal, really was spot on.”
“It’s good for him to have some success because he’s struggled in his first several outings,” he said.