June 4, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – A wild slugfest went the way of UNCW on Saturday night as the Seahawks defeated Rhode Island, 11-7. The win puts UNCW at 2-0 in the 2016 NCAA Columbia Regional, and one more victory will push Marc Scalf’s team into the Super Regional round for the first time in school history.
Both teams scored in four of the first five innings, but four UNCW home runs were enough to help lift the second-seeded Seahawks over the top as neither team crossed the plate in the final three frames. UNCW is 2-0 at an NCAA Regional for the first time in eight trips to the postseason.
Sophomore right-hander Austin Easter (3-0) steadied the ship for UNCW in 2.1 innings of relief and earned the victory. Rhode Island starter Steve Moyers (6-7) gave up 10 runs (nine earned) in 4.0-plus innings and absorbed the loss. UNCW sophomore Austin Magestro pitched the final 5.0 innings, his longest effort of the season, and picked up his third save.
All nine hitters in the UNCW (41-17) starting lineup tallied a hit for the second-straight game. Sophomore Zack Canada led the way, going 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI, while Kennard McDowell was 2-for-4 with a round-tripper of his own and three RBI. Juniors Robbie Thorburn and Gavin Stupienski also went deep.
Juniors Martin Figueroa and Mike Corin each homered for Rhode Island (31-26). Corin and sophomore Jordan Powell led the Rams with two RBI a piece.
The Seahawks struck first with a pair of runs in the top of the 1st inning. Brian Mims blasted an RBI triple that nearly left the park, and he later scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Feight.
Rhode Island was not deterred after rallying from a 4-0 deficit on Friday, and they wasted no time coming back again on Saturday. Figueroa crushed a solo home run to cut the gap in half, and four batters later senior Connor Foreman nearly homered himself. The warning track fly did score a run on the sacrifice, however, tying the game at 2-2.
UNCW regained their lead quickly in the 2nd inning. McDowell hammered an 0-2 pitch over the bullpen in left field and deep onto the concourse. It was a three-run shot and gave the Seahawks a 5-2 lead.
The Rams battled back in their half of the 2nd inning. With two on and two out, Powell roped a pitch up the middle to bring a pair of teammates home and chase starting pitcher Alex Royalty from the game. After two frames, UNCW’s lead was 5-4.
Rhode Island blanked UNCW in the top of the 3rd and took the lead in the bottom half. Corin stepped in with two outs and smashed a long home run to left field, scoring a pair and putting the Rams up 6-5.
UNCW drew even with the Rams in the 4th. Thorburn homered just over the right-center fence, a solo shot.
It was the Seahawks’ turn to take the lead in the 5th inning. Daniel Stack singled home a run to make it 7-6, and later in the inning Zack Canada hit a three-run homer to left field. That knocked Moyers out of the game and increased the lead to 10-6.
After two quick outs in the bottom of the 5th, a UNCW error helped the Rams score a run. Sophomore Chris Hess doubled the run in, but Rhode Island left two runners stranded and the Seahawks maintained a 10-7 lead.
UNCW got the run back in the 6th inning. Stupienski led off the frame with a home run, his 14th of the season. The blast ran his streak to 34 straight games reaching base, and it upped the Seahawks’ lead to 11-7.
That home run closed the scoring accounts for both teams, as the final three innings went by without a run scored.
Rhode Island will face top-seed South Carolina in a rematch at 12 p.m. ET. The loser is eliminated, while the winner battles UNCW at 6 p.m. The Seahawks can win the Regional with a victory.