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Baseball travels to N.C. for four-game road trip

by Will Beverina | wbeverina@radford.edu

Radford baseball took a trip down to N.C. last week. A single match against Elon and a three-game series against No. 9 University of North Carolina ended in a 0-4 week for the Highlanders.

     The matchups started with last Tuesday against the hosting Phoenix (3-1), a 10-1 loss for Radford (1-5). Sophomore Andrew Nardi had little to do with the deficit, as the starting pitcher turned in 4.1 innings where he struck out nine batters and allowed three runs in his first college start. The lefty only allowed two hits and two walks, and his career day was over in the fifth when Cameron Fritz stepped onto the mound.

     Fritz didn’t last long, closing out only the fifth inning after allowing two earned runs. Trey Alderman and John Brocklebank would allow the last five runs that Elon scored.

     The Highlander bats had just as much trouble as their pitchers, striking out 16 times and getting their lone run in the top of the sixth when Luke Wise launched his fifth career home run over right-center field.

     Radford traveled to Chapel Hill on Friday for a three-game series against the Tar Heels (6-0).

     Highlander ace Zack Ridgely had perhaps one of the best starts of his career on Friday, going 7.2 innings. The left-hander almost went all 7.2 of those innings without allowing a run, as the game remained tied in the bottom of the eighth inning 0-0. However, a two-run shot by UNC’s Brian Miller broke the game open, and ended up being the only two runs on the day in the 2-0 Radford loss. Ridgely finished with seven strikeouts and allowed only two hits on only 84 pitches.

     On Saturday, Radford took their first lead of the series when senior Jonathan Gonzalez blasted a two-run homer in the first inning for a 2-0 Highlander lead early.

     But with star hitter and new-found starting pitcher Danny Hrbek on the mound, UNC wasted little time answering, as Kyle Datres’ double down the left field line plated two with an error and fielder’s choice netting another two runs for the Tar Heels in the second inning for a 4-2 lead. Another three runs in the third inning extended the UNC lead to 7-2.

     Radford would show some fight with a seventh-inning run off a Spencer Horwitz RBI, but another two runs from UNC sealed the deal with a 9-3 decision in favor of the Tar Heels.

     On Sunday, the Highlanders struggled to get going.

     The first seven innings proved difficult for Radford, who could only muster one hit in that time on a Hrbek single in the fourth.

     Meanwhile, the Tar Heel bats had little trouble producing runs, mostly thanks to the Highlander defense. Ryan Sande got the start for Radford, and allowed five hits and four runs, with only one of those being earned, to go along with two strikeouts in five innings. Six Radford errors contributed to UNC building a 7-0 lead after seven innings.

          But the Highlanders were almost able to pull off the improbable with the last two innings of the game. In the top of the inning, Radford managed to load the bases on three straight singles, where Richard De La Cruz was able to plate two with a single of his own. Two wild pitches put more runners on base for Radford, but unable to score more, the Highlanders had the lead cut to 7-2 after eight.

     Radford continued the rally in the ninth inning, with Horwitz drawing a walk to start things off. Austin Roth followed with a single, and Kyle Butler sent a blooper to left field to plate Horwitz and advance Roth. Straton Podaras contributed another single to send Roth home.

     The Tar Heels then went to Josh Hiatt, looking for his fifth save on the season. A shaky start to his outing saw him throw a pitch into the dirt that allowed Butler to score and bring the lead down to only 7-5. But unfortunately, even with De La Cruz working a full count out of the

closer, the freshman struck out, and Radford fell short in the series sweep.

     The Highlanders take on Blacksburg on Tuesday before taking on Kent State, Quinnipiac and Wake Forest this weekend.

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