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April 18, 2015123456789RHE
USC Upstate000000000052
Win: PASSANTINO (1-0) 7.140009
Loss: WHITNEY (3-2) 9.043134
FICKAS (UPST) 401000
KRIDER (UPST) 401000
BEAVER (UPST) 301000
April 18, 2015123456789RHE
USC Upstate010000052870
Win: PUCKETT (4-1) 7.034423
Loss: MANUPPELLI (1-3) 5.063334
MASSEY (LIP) 403200
Baseball hangs on to sweep Upstate in big road series
Saturday, April 18, 2015
By Kirk Downs
Baseball hangs on to sweep Upstate in big road series

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Entering the weekend at USC Upstate, the Lipscomb baseball team had one goal in mind: get a sweep.

On Saturday the Bisons brought the brooms into Harley Park for a doubleheader and achieved that goal with a pair of 3-0 and 9-8 wins. The series finale was moved up a day due to the impending inclement weather expected to hit on Sunday.

 “Anytime you can sweep a team in our conference, especially on the road, it’s a big, big plus,” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “I thought we played really well all weekend. This was a great series for our team and hopefully we can build on it with Kennesaw State coming in next weekend.”

With the wins Lipscomb improves to 24-13 overall and 5-4 in league play. Upstate drops to 13-27, 4-8.

Freshman Jeffrey Passantino, in only his second career start, was the story of game one. He tossed a career best 7.1 frames and picked up his first collegiate win. The fireballer rang up a career high nine batters. He scattered four hits and did not issue a walk.

“I just can’t say enough about Jeff’s start,” Forehand said. “We have asked him to step into that role and he has done a fabulous job so far. He was brilliant today. On top of his nine strikeouts, he did not allow a walk. It was a really, really good outing.”

His nine punch outs were the most by a Bison since Denton Norman struck out nine against Florida Gulf Coast in 2014.

The play of the game came in the top of the sixth when senior second baseman Mike Korte led off with a standup double to left centerfield. Redshirt junior Adam Lee reached base on a bunt single, but an errant throw from the pitcher allowed him to move to second and Korte to cross the plate.

Freshman speedster Michael Gigliotti followed with a bunt single of his own in the next at-bat, but this time a bad throw from the catcher allowed Adam Lee to come home and Gigliotti to advance to third.

Senior shortstop Grant Massey then knocked in Gigliotti for the game’s final tally with a sacrifice fly to right centerfield.

Senior reliever Jason Ziegler pitched the final 1.2 innings to pick up his third save of the season. The southpaw entered the game with runners on the corners in the eighth, but shut the door with back-to-back punch outs.

Game two was much of the same for Lipscomb.

After the Spartans grabbed their first lead of the weekend in the bottom of the second on a Stephen Dowling single up the middle, Lipscomb answered right back with the tying run in the top of the third.

Adam Lee led off the frame with an inside-the-park home run to center field after Upstate’s James Fowlkes slipped and could not recover. It was the fourth home run of his career, all have come this season.

The Bisons took the final lead of the contest with two runs in the fifth. Adam Lee and Gigliotti led off with back-to-back singles before moving into scoring positon on a sacrifice bunt from Massey. Jonathan Allison knocked in the first run with a grounder to second base before Allan Hooker’s double to left center brought around Gigliotti to give the Bisons a 3-1 lead.

An inning later, Lipscomb’s lead grew to five runs. Gigliotti hit into a fielder’s choice to allow Tyson Ashcraft to trot across the dish. Massey followed with a 2-RBI double to right center.

Junior catcher Chucky Vazquez came through with a double to deep center in the seventh to plate Ashcraft and Hunter Hanks.

The onslaught continued in the top of the eighth when Gigliotti drew a leadoff walk and Massey laced a single to right field to set the table for Hooker. The 5-foot-10 outfielder ripped a RBI-single to left field to bring home Gigliotti for the Bisons’ final run of the game.

Just when it looked as though Lipscomb would cruise to another victory, Upstate decided it had other plans.

The Spartans mounted a comeback in the final two frames, scoring five times in the eighth and two more in the ninth. The runs came on five hits, three walks, a wild pitch and an error. Upstate had the tying run on second base in the ninth inning before Lipscomb reliever Will Blalock got a fly out to right field for the game’s final out.

“It got a little tight down the stretch,” Forehand said. “There is no lead that is safe in conference play. Upstate did a great job of coming back, but we can’t help them by walking guys.”

Freshman Brady Puckett put together back-to-back quality starts after working seven innings on the bump. He recorded three punch outs and walked two. He gave up four runs on three hits to take his record to 4-1.

“Puckett gave us seven strong innings and helped hold our bullpen down,” Forehand said. “We continue to talk about these freshmen; they keep growing with every outing. He ran into a little trouble in the seventh and hopefully he can learn from that, but this was another solid outing from Brady.”

Blalock came in on relief and threw the final frame giving up two runs on two hits. He picked up his first career save.

Zac Manuppelli dropped to 1-3 for Upstate. He threw five complete innings and gave up three runs on six hits. 

Quick Hits:

  • Lipscomb improves to 12-9 all-time versus the Spartans.
  • Passantino’s nine strike outs are the most by a Lipscomb freshman since John Pryor’s 10 against Western Kentucky on March 5th, 2014.
  • He is averaging 11.53 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and has fanned at least three batters in seven of his 11 outings, including the last six.
  • Lipscomb won its first A-Sun series of the season and its first conference road sweep since downing Kennesaw State in three in 2014.
  • The 11 punch outs by the pitching staff in game one Saturday are a season high. The Bisons had previously struck out 10 on two occasions.
  • They also did not issue a walk in game one, the fifth time that has happened on the year. 
  • With 14 hits in game two, the Bisons now have 18 multiple hit games this season. They are 15-3 in those contests.
  • Massey, Allison and Gigliotti are tied for a team-high 14 multiple-hit games.
  • Gigliotti extends his on-base streak to 10 games.
  • With five bunt singles this weekend, the Bisons now have 22 on the year. It entered the weekend seventh in the country with 17. 
  • Gigliotti has a team-high 15 bunt singles (15-for-22).

Up Next:

The Bisons return to action Tuesday April 21 when they visit Austin Peay for a 6 p.m. nonconference contest.