DURHAM, N.C. – The Presbyterian College baseball team used a season-high three home runs to defeat North Carolina Central, 8-7, on Tuesday evening at the Durham Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. The Blue Hose improved to 15-16 overall, while the Eagles dropped to 15-15 on the year.
How It Happened
Presbyterian opened the game with two runs in the first inning. Glen Casaceli, batting in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, doubled to right field to open the game. A groundout moved him to third before an RBI single to center by Cletis Avery drove him in. Avery then stole second and moved up to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Nick Wise then reached on an error by the first baseman, which allowed Avery to score and gave PC a 2-0 lead.
NC Central then got on the board in the bottom half of the inning. Carter Williams and Evan Holland drew back-to-back walks to lead off the inning with a wild pitch allowing both runners to move up. A sac fly to right by Corey Joyce scored Williams from third to cut the lead to 2-1. PC starter Tristan Roberts then got back-to-back strikeouts to retire the side and strand one.
PC responded with a run in the second. Nick Guimbarda led off the inning with a single to left to put a runner aboard. A fielder’s choice by Tannor Byrd made it one out with a runner on first, before a wild pitch and balk put Byrd on third. Brett Auckland then made quick work of scoring him with a sacrifice fly to center to push the lead back to 3-1.
The Eagles then tied the game with a pair of runs in the third. Andrew Valichka singled up the middle to start the inning with Williams drawing a walk and Holland reaching on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases with no outs. Joyce then singled down the left field line to plate two and even the game at 3-3.
The Blue Hose then got five runs across the middle innings. In the fourth, Byrd singled with two outs and Auckland followed with a two-run home run, his third of the season, to put PC back in front at 5-3. The fifth saw Avery draw a one-out walk in front of AJ Priaulx, who homered to right center for his second long ball of the season to make it a 7-3 game. Guimbarda capped it off with a solo home run to lead off the sixth, the first of his career, to extend the lead to 8-3.
Much like the game in Clinton earlier this season, the Eagles would not go away quietly, rallying for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the seventh. Williams and Joyce each recorded RBI singles to score the first two Eagle runs in the inning, coming with one out. Zach Michalski later singled in two more with two outs to make it a one-run game at 8-7.
Eric Miles worked a scoreless eighth inning, after helping PC out of the jam in the seventh, before turning the game over to Ryan Hedrick in the ninth. A one-out single by Conrad Kovalcik and a hit-by-pitch put two on with one out, before a flyout put NCCU down to its final out of the game. D Cuevas recorded an infield single but Devin Sweet, who pinch ran for Kovalcik, was thrown out, 4-2, to end the game and preserve the victory for the Blue Hose.
Pitchers of Record
PC reliever Russ Branch (1-0) worked 4.0 scoreless innings of two-hit baseball out of the bullpen to earn his first collegiate victory. The righty recorded three strikeouts without walking a batter in his longest outing of the season.
NC Central starter Nick Caregnato (1-1) suffered the loss, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits in 4.0 innings of work on the bump.
Blue Hose closer Ryan Hedrick earned his fifth save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning. The righty allowed two hits in NCCU’s final at-bat but came away unscathed in the victory.
Player of the Game
Brett Auckland drove in a team-high three runs and scored one in the offensive affair. The left-handed hitting outfielder hit his team-high-tying third home run of the season, a two-run shot, to help PC regain the lead in the fourth inning. He finished the game 1-for-3 at the plate. All three of Auckland’s home runs this season have come on the road in midweek games.
- Nick Guimbarda went 2-for-4 at the plate with a home run, a run and an RBI in the win. The homer, a solo blast and the first of his collegiate career, proved to be the decisive run in the 8-7 win.
- AJ Priaulx also homered in the contest with a two-run round tripper for his second of the season.
- Glen Casaceli went 2-for-5 with a run scored out of the leadoff spot, his first time batting atop the order this season. The senior has now hit safely in each of his last eight games.
- Tannor Byrd, making his first collegiate start, went 2-for-4 with two runs out of the eight spot in the lineup. The freshman also recorded a putout and three assists in an errorless game at second base.
- The three home runs was a season-high for the Blue Hose and its fourth multi-homer game of the season. It was a year and one day ago that PC last hit three home runs in a game, going deep three times at UNC Asheville on April 3 last season.
- In the previous matchup between PC and NC Central this season, coming in Clinton on March 8, PC won by the same score of 8-7.
PC heads to Winthrop in its first road Big South series of the year, beginning on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Winthrop Ballpark in Rock Hill, S.C.