by Doug Page
WILSON, N.C. – A pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning would lead the UNC Pembroke Braves to another comeback victory against the Barton College Bulldogs on Tuesday night at Fleming Stadium. The Braves completed the season sweep of BC with a 7-6 win despite not leading until the last inning of play.
Barton (11-30) scored the opening four runs of the contest and would rally to take a late lead before seeing the Braves continue to chip away at the BC lead. UNC Pembroke (27-10) would break the hearts of Barton fans once again as the Braves rallied in the ninth inning for a second time this season to defeat BC in its last at-bats of both contests.
Junior Gatlin Pate finished the game with a pair of runs batted in for the Bulldogs while going 2-for-5 at the plate with a pair of runs scored. Freshman Mason Cooper went 1-for-3 at the plate with two RBI and kept the Braves off the scoreboard until the top of the fourth inning. Junior Troy Maslowski and sophomore Noah Almond each tallied one RBI for Barton as six different BC players recorded a hit in the contest.
Trey Jacobs would be the hero a second time for the Braves as he delivered the eventual game-winning hit in the top of the ninth inning against Maslowski and the Bulldogs. Jacobs delivered a walk-off home run for UNCP in the first meeting of the season between the two teams that resulted in a 9-6 win for the Braves. Luke Jackson tallied a game-high three hits, while Seth Hartings went 1-for-1 at the plate with a pair of RBI.
UNC Pembroke looked to gain the upper hand in the top of the first inning against the Bulldogs and Cooper. Following a one-out error by BC, Connor Grainger would ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to get Cooper and the Bulldogs out of the frame. Barton answered by taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the inning as Pate singled up the middle to score freshman Hunter Little from second base.
With a pair of runners in scoring position and two outs, Cooper helped his own cause by tagging UNCP starter Dylan Radford for a pair of runs with a double to right field to make it 3-0. Radford stranded a runner on second by recording a strikeout to end the frame.
The Bulldogs turned another inning-ending double play in the second inning as freshman Colby Warren beat the lead runner to third base and delivered a bullet to first to keep the BC lead intact. Maslowski upped the lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the frame for Barton with a double to left field. Senior Rich Trifaro scored from second on the play following a sacrifice bunt from freshman Garrett Giddens.
UNCP would make a move to the bullpen early in the contest and turn to AJ Stead to work through the middle inning. Barton seemed poised to add to its lead in the bottom of the third inning after loading the bases thanks to consecutive walks from Stead. The Braves escaped the potentially big inning for the Bulldogs by getting Giddens to groundout to second base.
The Braves cut into the BC lead by plating a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning. UNCP got things going in the frame with a walk and a double to left center off the bat of Jacobs. Barton would make a pitching change as sophomore Landry Moore took over for Cooper. A sacrifice fly coupled with a single to center trimmed the Barton advantage to 4-2 in the frame.
Aaron Biggerstaff entered for the Braves in the bottom of the fourth inning and would work into and out of trouble for UNCP by stranding a runner at third base for Barton. Biggerstaff kept the BC offense at bay as he would retire nine straight Barton batters. The Braves trimmed the deficit to one run in the top of the sixth inning as Hartings delivered a sacrifice fly to right field to plate Connor Grainger.
Maslowski would take over on the mound for Barton to start the seventh inning and quickly see the Braves get the potential tying run on base. Maslowski recorded the second out of the inning and appeared like he would keep the lead intact for Barton. Trevor Clemons delivered a single through the left side that would elude Pate and allow Jarratt Mobley to score from second and knot the score 4-4.
Barton quickly answered by taking the lead back in the bottom of the frame as Pate delivered his second run-scoring hit of the contest to plate Maslowski from first and make it 5-4. BC added a second run as freshman Charlie Horn recorded a sacrifice fly to left field that would allow Pate to score from third and up the Bulldog lead to 6-4.
The Braves cut the gap to 6-5 in the eighth inning as Jackson scored from third on a wild pitch, while the potential tying run advanced to third behind the play. Maslowski kept the Bulldogs on top by getting a strikeout of Ethan Baucom and groundout from Mobley to end the frame.
Trace Hagler worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth inning to prevent the Bulldogs from adding any insurance runs heading into the ninth inning. The clean inning by the Braves defensively paved the way for UNCP to rally for a pair of runs in the ninth inning to knot the score and eventually take a 7-6 advantage. UNCP tied the game off a wild pitch and would later take the lead as Jacobs came through with a clutch two-strike single up the middle to score Clemons from third.
BC would have no rally left in the tank as Gunner Deal closed the door on the Bulldogs in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve the 7-6 victory. Deal worked around a two-out infield single from Warren to strand the potential game-tying run on base. Hagler improved his record to 3-1 on the season in earning the victory after tossing 1.2 scoreless innings of relief, while Deal notched his second save of the season after tossing the ninth inning. Maslowski (0-3) suffered the loss for the Bulldogs after allowing four runs off four hits through three innings of work.
The Bulldogs head to Belmont, N.C. for their second to last Conference Carolinas series of the season as Barton and Belmont Abbey will square off on Friday night at 6 p.m. The series concluded with a twin bill on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.