Melnyk limits Bulldog offense

Published 8:44 am Sunday, May 9, 2021

Fresh off his first collegiate win last weekend, Andrew Melnyk upped the ante against UNC Asheville in the series finale last weekend.

The left-hander shut down UNC Asheville with one of the best starts of his Longwood career, and the offense backed him up with five runs in the 5-3 win on Saturday afternoon.

After going a career-best seven innings last weekend in a win against Radford, Melnyk (2-3) went 7.2 innings to earn a second straight win. He kept a potent Asheville (15-26, 14-19 Big South) squad that was 11-5 at home at arm’s length throughout the contest, limiting the Bulldogs to two runs on six hits while only walking one.

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“Today was the best I’ve seen Andrew Melnyk’s fastball command and slider,” Longwood head coach Ryan Mau said. “He was outstanding at getting weak contact early in counts which allowed him to go deep into the game for us.”

That start helped the Lancers (15-27, 8-20) avenge a pair of one-run losses on Friday night and avoid a sweep, as the offense piled up more than 10 hits for the sixth time in the last seven games. The team put runners on base in eight of the nine innings.

James Nelson and Drayven Kowalski delivered the run-scoring base knocks, with the two combining to drive in all five of Longwood’s runs. Nelson’s three RBI were one shy of a career high, while Kowalski added two. Four players tallied multi-hit games. Ricky Jimenez went 3-4 with his second three-hit game of the series, and Nelson, Hayden Harris and Michael Dolberry each added two hits apiece.

“Ricky Jimenez had a big game swinging the bat and made some really nice plays with the glove,” Mau said. “Drayven Kowalski and James Nelson came up with the timely hits that led our offensive attack.”

Melnyk shook off a solo homer by Dominic Freeberger in the first inning that gave UNC Asheville the lead to post four consecutive scoreless frames.

The Lancer offense was aggressive and put runners on base in each of the first two innings before finally breaking through in the third. With runners at second and third and two outs, James Nelson knocked a single to right-center that gave Longwood a 2-1 lead.

In the sixth, Longwood had runners at first and second, and Kowalski knocked a single through the left side of the infield to score both for a 4-1 lead.

Asheville’s Brandon Lankford cut the lead to 4-2 with a solo homer in the home half of the sixth, but Melnyk stayed calm, cool and collected and struck out Ty Kaufman to end the half inning.

Nelson provided Longwood’s answer in the seventh with another two-out base knock. This time, the true freshman swatted home Michael Peterson to extend the lead to 5-2.

In the ninth, Asheville loaded the bases and plated one run with one out, but Logan Berrier struck out a pair of batters to shut the door for his third save of the season.

Kole Harris (2-2) took the loss for UNC Asheville. He gave up four runs in six innings on 10 hits and one walk while striking out seven.

The Lancers head back home to host High Point on Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.