Late rallies sink undermanned Lancers

Published 11:03 am Monday, April 26, 2021

A pair of late-inning rallies by USC Upstate proved to be the difference against Longwood in the series finale as the Spartans finished off the sweep 13-3 Sunday at Harley Park.

USC Upstate (27-9, 18-9 Big South) used nine runs combined in the sixth and eighth innings to change the tenor of a tie game and pull away. The Spartans clustered nine of their 14 hits in those two innings.

The Lancers (11-25, 4-18 Big South) battled early despite missing 10 players in the contest, but they ran out of steam in the latter innings after erasing a three-run deficit in the fourth and fifth innings.

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Jason Matthew had the big hit that created separation for USC Upstate, while Jack Hennessy, Devin Buckner, Noah Rabon and Jack Gallagher each had two hits for the Spartans.

That was enough to overcome a Longwood offense that posted 11 hits. Jack Schnell led the way by going 3-4 at the plate, and Ricky Jimenez added two RBI singles and a walk. Andrew Gorham also went 2-3 with a walk on the day.

“We knew it was going to be a very challenging weekend with many of our key players out due to injuries and contact tracing protocols,” Longwood head coach Ryan Mau said. “I thought offensively, we swung the bats decently against some really good Upstate arms. We missed a few scoring opportunities that we need to be better with our offensive execution.”

The Lancers were persistent early and clawed back into the game after the Spartans jumped out to an early 3-0 lead through two innings off starter Trey Tiffany. Logan Berrier came on in relief and fended off Upstate on the mound, and Jimenez and the top of Longwood’s order rallied back to tie the score.

In the fourth, Schnell singled before Jimenez poked him home with an RBI single that cut the lead to 3-1. Following a scoreless half by Berrier on the mound, Hayden Harris and Eliot Dix singled in the fifth. An error allowed Longwood to cut the lead to 3-2, and Jimenez tied it at three apiece with his second RBI single in as many innings.

Meanwhile, Berrier pitched into the sixth inning after taking over with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning. The freshman escaped the jam unscathed and proceeded to blank a potent Upstate offense for three straight innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

Upstate piled up six hits and took advantage of a Longwood error to plate five runs. After the error allowed Upstate to break the tie, and Matthews roped a bases-loaded double that scored all three runners and extended the lead to 7-3. Buckner’s RBI single one batter later pushed the lead to five one batter later. Lloyd Dominguez came on for Berrier a few batters later and induced a double play to escape, but the damage had been done.

Alex Garbrick (5-2) earned the win for Upstate after striking out eight in six innings of work. He was responsible for all three runs while giving up nine hits.

Berrier (2-2) ultimately took the loss for Longwood after pitching 3.2 relief innings, the third straight outing that has lasted at least three innings for the freshman in his team-leading 13th appearance of the season. He struck out five while giving up six hits and a walk that led to the five-run sixth, with four runs being earned.

“We will be short rostered for at least another week, so guys need to be ready to step up and contribute when their opportunity comes,” Mau said.

The Lancers return home to open up a three-game series against Radford this weekend. The two sides will play a single game on Friday night followed by a doubleheader on Saturday. Friday’s first pitch is set for 5 p.m. while Saturday’s first game will start at 1 p.m.