HIGH POINT, NC — Gardner-Webb scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning to pass No. 3 UNC Asheville on Thursday night in the 2022 Ingles Big South Conference Baseball Championship.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs (24-35) earned a three-point brace from Pierre Capobianco to create a cushion after taking a 6-5 lead on a base-loaded walk. GWU will have a quick turnaround, taking on No. 1 seed Campbell in under 12 hours at Truist Point.
UNC Asheville took a 3-0 lead with a big first inning, taking advantage of an unusual two-error inning by the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb scratched a run in the top of the second, earning a debut single from DaeganBrady and an RBI single from Jacob Marcos to cut Asheville’s lead to 3-1. The No. 3 seeded Bulldogs got this run down for second.
With Maggi closing out Asheville’s offense with an effective mix of fastball and slider, Gardner-Webb slugger Alec Burns hit a moonshot over the wall on the left for a solo home run and it was 4-2 in the top of the fifth.
Pierre Capobianco started a quick flurry in the sixth that fired Gardner-Webb in a single point. He was hit by a 0-2 fastball and, after Brady picked the middle to put the runners in the corners, Bo Rusher III delivered a sacrificial fly to deep center for the score at 4-3.
Gardner-Webb had a golden opportunity in the seventh. Marcos started with a walk and moved to second on a sacrificial bunt, but Asheville reliever JP Perez bounced back with a pair of strikeouts to leave Marcos in second.
The ‘Dogs got another base runner in the eighth when Rusher was dunked with two outs. Humberto Torres reached on a hustle play with a single in the field and Alex Ray delivered a clutch hit in the middle to score the pinch runner Nate Anderson and tie the game. The home throw was off the line, allowing Ray to reach second base and Marcos was intentionally walked to set up a left-left clash between Perez and Jones.
Perez came out of the jam with the score tied, inducing a chopper at second base to end the threat.
UNC Asheville regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the eighth, but curtis robinson e Brady teamed up to shoot even in the top of the ninth.
Robison scored a rule-of-thumb double to right center and Brady followed with an RBI hit down the middle for the score at 5-5. UNC Asheville couldn’t scratch in the ninth and the Gardner-Webb won the game in the 10th.
Humberto Torres was hit by a pitch in the lead of the inning and, after a pair of pop-ups, A.J. Jones was hit by a pitch with two out. Burns drew a walk to charge the bases and Robison followed with a four-pitch walk to bring Torres home for a 6-5 lead.
Capobianco then delivered the big blow, ripping a deep left line to clear the bases. Asheville scored a run late in the 10th, but Michael Portella closed the door to seal the win.
Kyle Skidmore (3-1) took the relief win, working 1.2 frames scoreless. Portella earned that stoppage with his effort in the 10th. Connor Maggi was the star on the mound, coming on to pitch 4.1 innings of strong relief, allowing just one run with six strikeouts to keep Gardner-Webb in the game.
The ‘Dogs had 10 hits, with Brady 3-for-6. Marcos was 2-for-4 at the flat and five other GWU hitters had at least one hit.
UNC Asheville had five hits from Dominic Freeberger and four from Robbie Burnett in the loss.
Spencer Hill (0-2) took the loss, giving up four runs in 0.2 innings of relief.