FOREST CITY, N.C. – Gardner-Webb pushed across six runs on seven hits in the bottom of the seventh Sunday night to rally past Marist in the final game of the 2010 North/South Challenge.
The Diamond ‘Dogs (2-5) captured their second win in a row, a did so by beating a Red Foxes team that won the MAAC Tournament last season and advanced to an NCAA Regional. Marist (2-5) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on Richard Curylo’s solo home run in the third inning, and pushed across two more runs in the sixth to go up 3-0.
Gardner-Webb led off the first, second and fourth innings with doubles, but had nothing to show for their efforts on the scoreboard.
Freshman Danny Yelverton stepped to the plate with two outs in the sixth, roping a double into right field and stealing third base to ignite Gardner-Webb’s first score of the evening. O.J. McFarland then ripped a single into left to cut the lead to 3-1, but Josh Drewery was cut down at the plate to prevent another run from scoring and ending the inning.
Matt Sapp started the decisive rally in the seventh, hammering a 1-1 pitch off the wall in left for a one-out double. Pinch hitter Jake Watts then delivered a single to left that moved Sapp to third. Watts hustled into second on an attempt to throw Sapp out at home, but Sapp did not try to advance and both men sat in scoring position.
Daniel Merck then tied the score, legging out a two-run double to left and chasing reliever Brendan Chapin from the game. Aaron Miller gave Gardner-Webb the lead for good with a shot up the middle, and Yelverton followed with his second double of the game to put runners at second and third with one out.
A sacrifice fly by Drewery gave Gardner-Webb a 5-3 lead and Ty Boyles followed immediately with a two-run home run to left for a 7-3 lead.
Reliever Brock Wilson, who came on to get the ‘Dogs out of a jam in the top of the sixth, worked past a leadoff single in the eighth to keep the Red Foxes off the board and retired Marist in order in the ninth for his first win of the season.
Wilson (1-0) also lowered his ERA to 3.12 on the season in his third appearance out of the pen. Emilio Pagan was strong in a no decision, working 5.1 innings and allowing just three earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts.
Gardner-Webb had 13 hits in the game, including seven doubles. McFarland led the way with a 3-for-4 effort and was joined by Merck (2-for-4, 2 RBI), Yelverton (2-for-3, 2 runs) and Boyles (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) at the top of the production sheet.
Chapin (0-3) took the loss in relief for Marist, lasting just one third of an inning and allowing three runs on three hits. Chad Gallagher was sharp in a no decision start, going 6.0 innings and allowing just one run on six hits.
Marist managed seven hits, with Bryce Nugent (2-for-4) and Jon Schwind (2-for-4, RBI) leading that effort.
The Southern teams - Gardner-Webb and Appalachian State - combined to go 5-1 in the inaugural North/South Challenge.
Gardner-Webb will travel to face No. 20 North Carolina on Tuesday, March 2 as part of a busy week of baseball. The Diamond ‘Dogs will play at USC Upstate on Wednesday, March 3, then at Wofford on Friday, March 5. GWU will then host St. Peter’s at Wofford on Saturday, March 6.