Braves baseball put together strong performances en route to a 2-1 record during their three-game home-stand against USC Aiken.
The pacers entered the three-day series against the Braves started on March 29 at Sammy Cox Field ranked 15th in the nation. Despite a lopsided 12-2 loss in game three, the Braves won game one 6-5 in a heroic fashion, walking off on a two-run double from redshirt freshman Connor Grainger.
The team followed with a fast start on offense and an outstanding pitching performance from freshman left handed pitcher Landen Smith to take game two by a score of 8-3 and clinch the series. UNCP head baseball coach Paul O’Neil highlighted the growth of the freshman, Grainger, over the course of game one.
“Connor earlier in the game didn’t come through,” he said “He was in a similar situation [to his game-winner] and he struck out.”
“And this time he got up there and tried to get it done early, got on top of the baseball and gave us a chance to walk them off,” O’Neil said.
Redshirt freshman Connor Grainger hit a walk off
home-run in the first game of the series. Photo by Trevon Knight
O’Neil was referring to an earlier point in the bottom of the fifth inning, with the Braves down by a score of 2-1, Grainger struck out with two runners left on base. A hit in that situation could have tied the game or given UNCP the lead.
Grainger showed resiliency and bounced back in a critical moment, doubling to center field in the bottom of the ninth inning. He drove two runners home and gave UNCP their 11th consecutive home victory.
Senior Roberto Rivera also stood out in the Braves’ first win. He went 2-for-3 and scored the game winning run against USC Aiken. Redshirt Freshman Trey Jacobs also turned in a strong hitting day, notching a solo home-run in the bottom of the fourth inning, as well as a double in the sixth to cap off a 2-for-4 game.
The Braves won game two much more decisively, scoring five runs in just the first two innings in a wire-to-wire victory. Grainger opened the scoring with a two-run homer to right-center field, which put UNCP on top early.
Senior Roberto scored the vicrtory sealing run in game one. Photo by Trevon Knight
Redshirt sophomore Ethan Baucom added an RBI double to increase the lead for the Braves. Fellow redshirt freshman Seth Hartings added an RBI single to cap off the first inning scoring flurry for UNCP. Another RBI from Grainger in the second inning gave the Braves a 5-0 lead that they would not relinquish as they cruised to the 8-3 win.
Even more important than the early offense from UNCP in the game-two victory was the pitching effort from Smith. He struck out seven batters and allowed only three hits through six scoreless innings, adding a victory to his record and pushing UNCP’s home winning streak to 12 games. Coach O’Neil highlighted Smith’s pitching effort as key to the Braves’ victory.
“It was outstanding.” O’Neil said. “I challenged him and he really came out and responded and did a phenomenal job.” The Braves had their 12-game home winning streak snapped in the third game, but maintained the series victory over the Pacers.