Catawba runs past UNCP baseball

Staff report

PEMBROKE — Seventh-ranked Catawba hit three home runs in a six-run second inning and utilized the services of six pitchers on the way to a 12-2 victory over the 14th-ranked UNC Pembroke baseball team on Tuesday evening at Sammy Cox Field.

The setback closed out a seven-game home stand for the Braves (27-7) who will head to St. Augustine, Fla., to put the lid on the road portion of their regular season schedule with a weekend series at Peach Belt Conference rival Flagler (9-20, 8-15 PBC). The Indians (31-7) pushed their win streak out to a dozen games with the result, and also finished off a season sweep of the Braves as well.

Tuesday’s loss came after UNCP clinched its first PBC regular-season championship with Sunday’s win over North Georgia.

Lee Poteat absorbed a bean ball with two strikes to lead off the second inning for Catawba, and Zack Miller followed with a homer to straightaway centerfield to give the visitors the lead for good. Joe Butts reached via hit by pitch in the next at-bat, and Cameron Mills and Luke Spiva finished off the scoring with back-to-back one-out dingers to give Catawba a 6-0 advantage.

Bobby Dixon had two hits, including a home run, to lead UNCP. Garrett Littleton had a hit and an RBI.

Brandon Winstead (2-1) took the loss. Jalen Scott pitched three innings with one hit allowed and six strikeouts and Branden Kunz struck out two in one inning of work.

Luke Spiva hit two home runs for Catawba and had four RBIs. Zack Miller had three hits, with two doubles and a homer, and three RBIs. Cameron Mills had two hits, including a homer, with three RBIs. Lee Poteat had two hits and scored twice.

Tyrese Hearst (3-0) earned the win for Catawba.

The Braves will close out the road portion of their 2021 regular season schedule this weekend when they head to St. Augustine, Fla., to battle Flagler (9-20, 8-15 PBC) in a weekend series at Drysdale Field. The squads will open up the series with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday, and close out the set with a 1 p.m. single contest on Sunday.

Ryan named PBC Pitcher of the Week

A Game 2 gem that fueled the UNC Pembroke baseball team to a weekend sweep of then-No. 21 North Georgia over the weekend has earned redshirt junior River Ryan the title of Peach Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week, league officials announced Tuesday.

Ryan fired off 146 pitches (101 strikes) and struck out 11 on the way to registering the first complete game performance for the Braves in two seasons. It was the first start on the hill for the everyday closer since he turned in a quality start against top-ranked Mount Olive in the 2017 NCAA Southeast Regional.

A native of Huntersville, Ryan allowed four hits and three runs (two earned) in his first 1 2/3 innings of work on Saturday, but retired the next 15 Nighthawks in order after that, including perfect showings in the third, fourth and fifth innings. The full-time second baseman finished his day having allowed six hits and four runs (three earned), while also fanning a career-best 11 batters.

Ryan was superb at the plate in the series as well, hitting .538 (7-for-13) with two home runs, six RBI and six runs scored, while also drawing one walk and absorbing a hit by pitch. He registered three hits in each of the last two games of the series, including a 3-for-5, six-RBI showing in Sunday’s finale that was highlighted by a pair of home runs, including a grand slam. He scored a pair of runs in all three games with the Nighthawks.

Ryan has played in 127 games (125 starts) for the Braves since the start of the 2017 campaign and has registered a .351 (170-for-484) career batting average with 52 extra-base hits (10 HR), 111 RBI and 136 runs scored. He has logged 31 career appearances (four starts) on the mound, while turning in a 7-1 record, a 0.97 earned run average and 11 saves. Ryan has 93 career strikeouts in 74.0 career innings pitched, and has held opponents to a miniscule .169 batting average.