BOILING SPRINGS – John Harris' double with two outs in the bottom of the 11th lifted Gardner-Webb to a 3-2 win and a Saturday sweep of North Carolina Central.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (24-22-1) won the opener 8-1. Gardner-Webb's pitching staff allowed only eight hits combined in the two games, and fanned 32 North Carolina Central batters (five walks allowed).
Two Gardner-Webb arms teamed up to strike out 19 Eagles in the nightcap, with starter Andrew Barnett fanning 11 in 6.0 innings of a no decision, and reliever Brad Haymes striking out eight in 5.0 scoreless relief innings.
After North Carolina Central (25-25) went up 2-1 in the sixth on a two-run double from Troy Marrow, Haymes came on to shut the Eagles down and allow Gardner-Webb to slowly work its way back even.
An RBI fielder's choice from Tyler Best followed a single by Harris and double down the line from Rundio to make the score 2-2 in the seventh inning. Neither team mounted a serious threat until Gardner-Webb's turn at bat in the 11th.
Brad Collins reached on a two-out error at first, and speedy pinch runner Alex Newman easily stole second to get into scoring position. Harris then roped a 2-2 fastball in the gap, and a diving Akeem Hood couldn't come up with the catch – allowing Newman to trot around for the game winner.
Barnett scattered four hits (three singles), fanned 11 and walked two batters in another sharp start. His walks were the first for the junior righty in five starts – a stretch that had seen him fan 40 batters since his last walk. On Saturday, Barnett struck out the side in the first and third innings. He has fanned 25 batters in his last 14.0 innings pitched (two starts).
Haymes, a freshman righty from Chatham, Va., was razor sharp out of the pen. He allowed just one hit, a soft single, and struck out eight batters with one walk in 5.0 innings for his third relief win of the season (3-1).
Gardner-Webb had eight hits in the game, led by Harris (2-for-5, 2B, run, RBI) and Best (2-for-4, 2 RBI). Best's RBI single after a two out single and stolen base by Henry Rundio in the second inning gave the Runnin' Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
Jacob Russell (4-2) took the loss in relief for the Eagles, allowing just an unearned run in 1.2 innings pitched. Starter Glenn Frye threw 121 pitches and fanned seven in 9.0 strong innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits (one walk).
The Eagles had five hits in the game, with Tyson Simpson (2-for-5, run) leading the way.
Gardner-Webb hit three home runs in the first three innings and cruised to an 8-1 win over North Carolina Central in Saturday's opener.
Benji Jackson got things started early, parking a three-run shot on a line to left to follow a leadoff double from JJ Nazzaro and a single from Scott Johnson in the top of the first. Brad Collins reached second on a two-base error to keep the rally going, and scored on an RBI grounder from Danny Yelverton for a 4-0 lead before the Eagles could get out of the inning.
Nazzaro came up with one out in the second and belted a long solo shot for a 5-0 lead in the second. John Harris doubled with one out in the third, and came home to score when Yelverton hit a two-run homer to left for a 7-0 lead.
Harris pushed the lead to 8-0 in the fifth with an RBI double to right, and the Gardner-Webb bullpen closed out the game in strong fashion.
North Carolina Central pushed across an unearned run in the top of the ninth after a pair of errors, but Beau Hilton would finish the game with a strong cushion intact.
Matt Fraudin (6-4) was strong on the mound again for the 'Dogs, hurling 6.0 shutout innings with only two singles allowed. The big righty fanned eight and walked two. Brock Wilson hurled 2.0 perfect innings with four strikeouts, and Hilton fanned one with one hit allowed in the ninth.
The 'Dogs pounded out 11 hits in the game, with six going for extra bases. Scott Johnson (3-for-4, run) and Harris (3-for-3, 2 2B, run, RBI) each had three hits, and Nazzaro (2-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 runs, RBI) had a pair.
Michael Romano (2-9) was tagged with the loss, allowing seven earned runs on nine hits in 4.0 innings pitched. Christian Neal hurled 4.0 scoreless innings in relief with seven strikeouts.
Dylan Drayton (1-for-4), Christian Triplett (1-for-1) and Ryan Collins (1-for-3) accounted for all three of the Eagles' hits in the game.
The two teams will wrap up the series on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:05 pm in John Henry Moss Stadium / Bill Masters Field. The game will air live on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org) and the Big South Network (bigsouthsports.com), with Fabian Fuentes calling the action.