DAHLONEGA, Ga. - The University of North Georgia (UNG) baseball team stepped out of its Peach Belt Conference schedule Wednesday night, hosting Georgia Gwinnett College on "Military Appreciation Night" at Bob Stein Stadium. The Saints were able to bounce back from an early deficit to claim a 9-8 win over the Grizzlies on a night when both teams were nearly hitting lights out.
Prior to the game, UNG student and staff member Andrew Sullens threw out the honorary first pitch. Sullens, a native of Dahlonga, joined the US Navy in 2003 and served on active duty for four years before joining the 1st 108th RSTA Georgia National Guard Unit out of Dalton for three years. He was awarded the Purple Heart after being involved in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Afghanistan in May of 2009.
Wearing their special camouflaged hats and jerseys, the Saints (13-23) out-hit the NAIA Grizzlies (25-17) 12-9 but did give up three crucial errors early in the contest. Georgia Gwinnett capitalized on the those errors to jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first two innings before North Georgia was able to get the offense going.
Starting in the third, the Saints plated runs in the next three innings beginning with two in the third followed by three in both the fourth and fifth frames to take an 8-5 lead.
Travis Naraine then tied the game at 3-3 in the fourth when he scored off a single to left field by Gearhart just before Eason Spivey handed the Saints the lead off an RBI by Barto. Barto ended the game with two runs batted in along with three other UNG players.
With the Saints up 8-5 following the fifth, Georgia Gwinnett's bats came back to life as the Grizzlies rallied back to tie the game at 8-8 with two runs in the seventh and another in the top of the eight.
But the Saints remained resilient and matched the single Georgia Gwinnett run in the eighth for the 9-8 win. The final run proved to be extra special for the Saints as it came off a solo home run by senior Derek Hooper (3-4); his first home run within the confines of Bob Stein Stadium.
Hooper ended things with a game-high-tying three hits and also had two RBI while Naraine, Krupp and Barto all recorded two hits. Naraine and Krupp also scored twice in the game.
UNG relied heavily on its pitching staff with four pitchers taking the mound Wednesday night, but it was redshirt freshman Brandon Agar who stepped up big when called on to secure the win. Agar (6-4) came in for the final two innings, serving up four strikeouts, including fanning the final three batters he faced.
Tyler Carpenter (1-3) pitched the final three innings for the Grizzlies, giving up the game-winning homer, and struck out three batters en route to being saddled with the loss.
North Georgia will remain at home for the next four games including a three-game PBC series this weekend against Armstrong Atlantic State University. The Saints and Pirates will start things off with a single game on Friday, Apr. 12 at 7:00 p.m. before playing a 2:00 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday.