Braves Turn Back Francis Marion In Series Opener
PEMBROKE – Seth Kivett hit a game-tying grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning and UNCP rallied back from its second deficit of the game by sending its entire order to the plate in the midst of a 4-run eighth inning to key a 9-6 victory over eighth-ranked Francis Marion in the front half of a series-opening doubleheader on Saturday at Sammy Cox Field.
Kivett walked twice and drove in six runs on a perfect 3-for-3 tally at the plate for No. 21 UNCP (29-11, 13-9 PBC) who clinched its second winning record in league play since joining the NCAA Division II ranks in 1993. Kyle Mastroianni scored twice on a 2-for-4 outing as well in helping the Braves clinch at least a share of the PBC Eastern Division title.
Preston Shuey belted his third home run of the season for the red-hot Patriots (33-10, 12-7) who debuted at No. 1 earlier this week in the latest NCAA Southeast Region poll. Tyler Cappelmann scored a run on a 3-for-4 outing for the visitors as well.
Freshman Brantley Hattrich (2-1) recorded the final two outs in the eighth to pick up the second win of his rookie campaign for the Braves, while Brian Willis tallied his ninth save of the season with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth. Reliever Patrick Mincey (3-2) took the loss for Francis Marion after allowing four runs (one earned) on two hits and a trio of walks in 2-1/3 innings of relief. He also struck out four.
Shuey's two-out solo homer gave the visitors a 2-0 lead in the top of the first and, after UNCP cut its deficit in half on a fielder's choice RBI knock by Josh Haley in the fourth, pushed its advantage out to 5-1 with three more in the fifth. Kivett's two-out grand slam in the home half of the frame knotted the score back up, but Francis Marion utilized a controversial catcher's interference call that delayed the game for more than 25 minutes to retake the lead in the sixth.
Joe Mangum drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game back up in the eighth, before Mincey surrendered the lead moments later by hitting Aaron Parnell with an inside fast ball. Kivett would give his team a pair of insurance runs two batters later on a two-run single to right field.