JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The USC Upstate baseball team tallied eight RBI, six with two outs, and the club held off a late ETSU rally to complete the three-game sweep of the Bucs with a 9-7 victory Sunday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
The Spartans, who now own a 25-12 record overall, have matched their highest win total in the D-I era (25 wins, 2008 [first season of D-I play]). After improving to 10-5 in league play, the club has matched the conference win total from last season.
With the sweep of ETSU (16-18, 4-11), the Spartans now have four weekend sweeps this season, two of which have come in league play (Lipscomb, Mar. 16-18). The sweep was also the first time that the Bucs have been swept at home since Apr. 9-11, 2011.
Upstate cracked the scoring column first with a single run in the top of the second inning. Luke Weber (Spartanburg, S.C.) opened the inning with a walk and was able to move to third thanks to a sac bunt by Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) and a groundout by Tyler Cook (Bloomington, Ill.). Brandon Patterson (Polk City, Fla.) followed with a RBI single to center, allowing Weber to score and put the Spartans in front, 1-0.
The Spartans struck for three runs in the top of the third, giving the club a 4-0 advantage. With two outs in the inning, the Spartans strung together four consecutive hits including a pair of RBI hits. Gaither Bumgardner (Fort Lawn, S.C.) singled to right field and Austin Liput (Oviedo, Fla.) singled to left to give the Spartans a pair of base runners with two out.
Weber followed with a RBI single through the left side allowing Bumgardner to score from second. Guers stepped to the plate and on the second pitch he saw, delivered a two-RBI double to right as the Spartans increased the lead to 4-0 after Liput and Weber scored on the rookie's eighth double of the season.
With two outs in the fourth, Brody Greer (Honea Path, S.C.) doubled down the left field line and came around to score on Jordan Stampler's (Davie, Fla.) RBI single to right field. Greer's run pushed the Spartan advantage to five at 5-0.
Upstate pushed the lead to 7-0 with a pair of runs in the fifth. Guers scored when Patterson reached first base on a fielder's choice. Patterson scored when Trey Richardson (Lakeland, Fla.) doubled, giving the Spartans a seven run lead.
Upstate starter Brandon Lee lost his shutout bid in the sixth when Alex Reynolds connected on his first career homerun, a three-run homer over the wall in left center, closing the gap to four (7-3).
Upstate loaded the bases with zero outs in the seventh and were able to cash in with two runs, pushing the lead to six at 9-3. Richardson, with the bases loaded, drew a walk allowing Patterson to move to second, Cook moved to third and Guers scored. Patterson was forced out at the plate on Greer's fielder's choice.
Stampler flied out to left and Patterson scored on a muffed throw by ETSU catcher, Mason Hershey. The relay throw from the outfield was not cut off and after the ball bounced away from Hershey, Patterson made his break for home and scored the ninth and final run for the Spartans.
ETSU scored four runs in the eighth and the Bucs trimmed the Spartan lead to just two runs at 9-7. Matthew Scruggs connected on his only hit of the contest, a homer to left center to open the eighth. The Bucs then followed with back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with no outs. Alex Reynolds delivered a RBI groundout to first as Dylan Pratt scored the second run of the inning.
After Lee walked the next batter he faced, Skyler Barnett, the Spartans made a pitching change. Jordan Rusk (Longwood, Fla.) replaced Lee, but Rusk hit the only batter he faced, Andrew Green. Green earned a RBI as Zach Thompson was able to trot home from third on the bases loaded hit-by-pitch.
Ben Augenstein (Sebastian, Fla.), a typical mid-week starter for the Spartans, relived Rusk with one out. Augenstein allowed a sacrifice fly to Kerry Doane, allowing Chris Riopedre to score the final run of the inning and the contest.
Augenstein allowed a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth, but retired the next two batters he faced to earn his first save in a Spartan uniform. Lee, despite surrendering seven earned runs on 10 hits, improved to 5-3. The junior, right-hander walked four and struck out four in 7.1 innings of work (116 pitches).
ETSU starter Jake Long was tagged with the loss after allowing seven runs on 11 hits in five complete innings. Long (3-3) walked one batter and struck out three during his 101-pitch outing.
All nine starters for the Spartans recorded at least one hit in Sunday's contest. Guers totaled two runs, two hits and two RBI, while Patterson and Richardson each tallied two RBI on just one hit.
Dylan Pratt had three hits and scored twice, while Alex Reynolds totaled four RBI to lead the ETSU offense.
The Spartans will return to action with a pair of mid-week contests, beginning Tuesday when they travel to Greensboro, N.C., for a 6 p.m. contest at North Carolina A&T. The club will return to Harley Park to face Wofford Wednesday night at 6 p.m.
The Spartans final games prior to exam week will take place next weekend as the club welcomes A-Sun foe Jacksonville to Harley Park for a three-game set beginning Friday at 6 p.m.