by Doug Page
PEMBROKE, N.C. – Take away a four-run bottom of the ninth inning and the Barton College Bulldogs would have secured their biggest victory this season. The nationally-ranked No. 25 UNC Pembroke Braves used a walk-off three-run home run to complete the comeback and hand BC a 9-6 loss in a baseball non-conference matchup on Tuesday night.
Barton (9-21) got nine of its 13 hits in the contest from five different freshmen as Mason Cooper and Garrett Giddens each recorded three hits apiece for the Bulldogs. UNC Pembroke (18-5) took an early 2-0 lead but saw the Bulldogs rally in the fifth inning to take a lead. The Braves got their biggest hit of the night from left fielder Luke Jackson, whose home run avoided a potential upset by the Bulldogs.
Cooper finished the game 3-for-5 at the plate with one double and one run batted in for Barton, while Giddens went 3-for-4 with one run scored. Freshman Tate Proctor had a two-run double for BC and went 1-for-3 at the plate, while junior Gatlin Pate went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored. Junior Troy Maslowski and senior Rich Trifaro both added one hit and one RBI for Barton.
Jackson recorded a pair of hits for the Braves to go along with his three RBI in the contest. Trey Jacobs had a 3-for-5 night at the plate to go along with two RBI, while Jarratt Mobley went 2-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored for UNCP.
Freshman Alex Hart kept the Braves offense off the scoreboard until the bottom of the third inning as UNCP would take a 2-0 lead. Mobley started the frame with a single to left field and would later swipe second base for the Braves. Roberto Rivera plated Mobley with a single to left field to give UNCP a 1-0 advantage. Two batters later, Jacobs delivered the third-straight hit of the frame off Hart to score Rivera.
Barton tallied its first run of the contest against UNCP starter A.J. Stead in the top of the fourth inning as Cooper sent a 2-2 pitch into the outfield to plate freshman Colby Warren from second base. Warren started the frame with a single through the left side and would advance to second following a wild pitch. Stead responded by fanning back-to-back batters and getting a fly-out to end the inning and strand Cooper at second.
The Bulldogs rallied against the Braves bullpen in the fifth inning as Giddens and freshman Hunter Little tallied back-to-back singles for BC. Maslowski knotted the score 2-2 with a single to right field that would plate Giddens from third base. With the bases loaded and two outs, a wild pitch would allow Little to score from third and give the Bulldogs a 3-2 advantage. Proctor increased the lead to 5-2 with a double to center field as Maslowski and Pate scored.
Leading 5-3, Trifaro gave the Bulldogs a three-run edge with a single to right field after working the count full in the at-bat. BC stranded a pair of runners on base as UNCP reliever Trace Hagler got Noah Almond to pop-up to the shortstop.
UNCP chipped-away at the Barton lead by scoring a run in both the seventh and eighth inning and trailed by just a run heading into the ninth inning. BC looked to add some insurance in the top of the frame as Cooper tried to start a rally with a two-out single to right field. Cooper would be stranded at first as Braves reliever Hank Simpson got Trifaro to strikeout on three pitches and end the frame.
The Braves needed just two hits against BC reliever Landry Moore in the bottom of the ninth to cap their comeback against the Bulldogs. Following a lead-off walk and sacrifice bunt, Jacobs singled to center on the first pitch he saw to knot the game 6-6. Two batters later, Jackson got a 3-1 pitch to his liking and sent the ball over the wall in left-center to give UNCP a 9-6 walk-off victory.
Hart took a no-decision on the mound for BC after allowing a pair of runs on five hits through three innings of work. Junior Ryan Pifer tossed two innings of relief for the Bulldogs and yielded one unearned run off one hit while fanning three batters. Moore (2-3) took the loss for Barton after allowing five runs on five hits over 1.1 innings of work. Stead fanned seven batters in his start for UNCP but took the no-decision after exiting the game to start the fifth inning. Simpson (2-1) earned the win after tossing a scoreless ninth inning against BC.
Barton hosts Limestone College for a three-game weekend series at Nixon Field beginning on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Saturday will be Youth Day at the ballpark along with BC raising funds for Pediatric Cancer with a Vs. Cancer benefit game. First pitch on Saturday is slated for 12 p.m.