Branham and Bumgardner Shut Down Hatters As Spartans Win, 4-2
DeLAND, Fla. - Senior Matt Branham (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) threw seven strong innings, allowing just two runs and six hits and the USC Upstate baseball team exploded for four runs in the top of the third inning and were able to hang on for a 4-2 win over Stetson in Atlantic Sun Conference action on Friday night at Melching Field. Upstate improves to 15-32 overall and 5-17 in the A-Sun and Stetson falls to 24-23 overall and 11-8 in the A-Sun.
Branham (4-3) strengthened as the game wore on, striking out four in his last two innings, while the Spartans (15-32 overall, 5-17 A-Sun) played stellar defense behind him. He finished with seven punchouts and two walks in his seven frames, tossing 108 pitches.
Freshman Gaither Bumgardner (Fort Lawn, S.C./Great Falls) earned his first collegiate save as he tossed the final two innings, allowing just an inherited run in the eighth and leaving a runner stranded in the ninth thanks to two strikeouts in the frame.
After two hitless innings to start the game, the Spartan bats came alive in the third inning, as they posted five hits to score four runs. Sophomore Austin Moyer (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford) started the rally by bouncing a ball through the right side and freshman Brody Greer (Honea Path, S.C./Belton-Honea Path) followed with a line single to center field. After junior Blake Green (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern) laid down a sac bunt, senior Brian Dempsey (Montverde, Fla./East Ridge) lined a triple into right-center that cleared the bases.
Junior Joe Barnes (Lake Orion, Mich./Grand Rapids C.C.) followed by chipping a bouncer over a drawn-in third baseman to drive in Dempsey on the double and senior Jimmy Tanner (Fayetteville, Ga./Starr's Mill) followed by driving a single up the middle to score Barnes and give Upstate a 4-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Greer's glove saved a run for the Spartans, as he made a diving catch of a hot liner with a runner on second and one out in the inning. He got up after the leap to his left and had plenty of time to convert the double play.
Upstate's defense ended a rally in the fourth inning, too, as the Hatters scored a run on three straight hits to start the inning, with a double by Spencer Thiesen driving in a run and leaving runners at second and third with no outs. However, freshman Trey Richardson (Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins) stabbed a hard-hit grounder, raced to first and then had time to throw home to catch the runner trying to score for the double play. Richardson also grabbed another grounder to end the threat.
In the sixth inning, the Hatters threatened again after a leadoff double, but Branham struck out the next two batters and got a fly out to end the inning. In the seventh, after a leadoff walk, the Spartans flashed the leather again, as sophomore Tyler Cook (Bloomington, Ill./University) came in on a low-sinking liner into left field and skimmed the ball out of the air just before it hit the ground for the first out of the inning. On the mound, Branham responded by striking out the next two batters to end the frame.
A pair of leadoff walks and a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning helped the Hatters close within two runs, but once again, Upstate's defense came through to stop a rally. With no outs, a ball was hit into no man's land to the first base side of the mound and freshman Bumgardner picked up the ball and on a dead sprint and sprinted to first base for the out, keeping the runners frozen at second and third. A grounder to short helped a run score, but Bumgardner fielded another comebacker to end the inning. Eight Spartans contributed hits in the game, with only Greer posting two, as he went 2-for-4 with a run. The Hatters managed just six hits, with Ryan Lashley posting two hits and a RBI.
Jacob deGrom (4-3) took the loss for the Hatters, as he tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits and four runs. He struck out six and walked one.
Upstate and Stetson will wrap up their three-game A-Sun set on Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader, set to begin at 1 p.m.