Runnin’ Bulldogs trip Panthers, 4-3
As the single off the bat of High Point University batter Dane McDermott bounced up the middle and skidded into the outfield with two-out in the bottom of the ninth, extra innings appeared to be in the offing.
Gardner-Webb center fielder J.J. Nazzaro came up throwing and delivered a perfect strike to catcher John Harris, who applied the tag to cut down runner Cody Manzella, allowing the visiting Runnin’ Bulldogs to escape with a 4-3 Big South victory Saturday night.
The loss drops the Panthers to 25-26 and 11-9 in the Big South as they try to remain one of the six teams other than the division champions to make the conference tournament that starts May 21. Gardner-Webb improves to 25-23-1 and 9-10 in the Big South.
“You have to wave him home in that situation,” HPU coach Craig Cozart said. “We’ve haven’t been exactly coming up with big hits lately. But, the guy made a great throw. Hits have been hard to come by and runs have been hard to come, so you can’t not send your guy in that situation, and Manzella runs pretty good. But there were a multitude of things that could have been done better.”
Some of those things included one wild pitch by HPU starter Jamie Schultz that helped G-W scored the winning run in the seventh. They included another wild pitch by Schutlz and passed ball by catcher Josh Spano to helped G-W jump to a 3-0 lead in the second. The Panthers also rapped into three double plays.
Schultz took the loss, falling to 0-6 for the season, despite giving just four hits and retiring 12 batters in a row at one point.
Schultz’s wild pitch in the seventh allowed Danny Yelverton to reach second just after Schultz fielded a bunt by Yelverton and gunned down the lead runner. Yelverton scored on Ryan Hodge’s singe up the middle.
The Panthers, down 3-0 at one point, tied the score in the sixth on Adam Barry’s deep double to right that scored Ryan Retz and Manzella. Retz started the rally with a two-out single and Manzella followed with a double.
The Panthers got on the board, cutting the deficit to 3-1, when Spano scored on Manzella’s high-bouncing single over third. Spano led off the inning with a single and Spencer Angelis followed with a single. But, the Bulldogs turned Ryan Retz’s grounder to short into a double play.
Barry, Manzella and McDermott each collected two hits. G-W starter Andrew Barnett got the win despite allowing all three HPU runs on eight hits.