SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Trailing 4-1 entering the bottom of the eighth, the USC Upstate baseball team mounted a rally with 11 runs in what proved to be their final at-bat as they claimed the series sweep with a 12-4 victory over Jacksonville Sunday at Harley Park.
With the victory, the Spartans improve to 29-12 overall and thanks to a Kennesaw State victory over Belmont, Upstate sits atop the Atlantic Sun Standings at 13-5. Meanwhile, the Dolphins fall to 14-28 overall and 4-11 in league play.
"We are happy to be in first place, because we have been in last place (the last few seasons)," said Upstate Head Coach Matt Fincher. "First place is a much better place to be, but there is still a long way to go in the season. We have three tough conference series to close out the regular-season as we go to Stetson and Mercer and play Kennesaw State here at home."
Gaither Bumgardner (Fort Lawn, S.C.) reached first base after he was hit by a pitch to open the eighth. After hitting Bumgardner, Jacksonville starter Drew Woods exited the game after reaching the eighth inning on 123 pitches.
The Spartans began their comeback attempt as they were able to load the bases as reliever Jimmy Appleby walked the first two batters he faced before recording the first out of the inning. With one out in the inning, L.J. Newman (Piedmont, S.C.) hit a sharp ground ball to third allowing Bumgardner to score, closing the gap to two (4-2). After Tyler Miller hit an infield fly, the Spartans were able to surge ahead as the club scored 10 runs (all unearned).
"Newman's hit definitely helped us out and seemed to get us going in the eighth," added Fincher.
Tyler Cook (Bloomington, Ill.) was able to reach first on a fielding error by Dolphin third baseman, Chris Moye. Moye's error allowed Austin Liput (Oviedo, Fla.) to score. The Spartans tied the contest at four when Brody Greer drew a bases loaded walk as Luke Weber (Spartanburg, S.C.) was able to cross home plate from third.
Jacksonville made its second pitching change of the inning as Steven Eagerton replaced Jimmy Appleby on the mound. Eagerton failed to record an out as he faced five batters in the eighth. Liput delivered the crushing blow as he delivered a three-RBI double down the left field line, pushing the Spartans lead to 9-4. After another pitching change, Nolan Peterson, the Spartans added three more runs in the eighth to push the lead to eight runs (12-4). In the eighth, the Spartans scored 11 runs on five hits and two Jacksonville errors.
In the ninth, Jake Huxtable was able to reach second, but Upstate starter Brandon Lee (Palatka, Fla.) was able to force a fly out to end the game as he recorded his fourth complete game of the season. Lee (6-3) allowed three runs (four total) on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
Dolphin reliever Jimmy Appleby (2-2) was tagged with the loss after surrendering five unearned runs on one hit and three walks.
Liput and Bumgardner led the Spartans at the dish as the duo combined for four hits to go along with five runs and four RBI.
Adam Brett Walker had the big hit for the Dolphins as the gave the visitors a 3-0 lead in the third with a two-out two-RBI double down the left field line. Jacksonville pushed the lead to 4-0 in the sixth when Walker scored after Jake Huxtable reached on a fielding error by Spartan left fielder Lee Dunnam (Maitland, Fla.).
Prior to its 11-run, eighth inning, the Spartans scored it first run of the contest as Liput scored on a RBI groundout by Trey Richardson (Lakeland, Fla.).
The Spartans, riding a seven-game win streak, will break for exams before returning to action on May 2nd with a non-conference tilt at Georgia State. First pitch in the contest between the Spartans and the Panthers is slated for 6 p.m.