MARS HILL, N.C. – Newberry mounted a two-out, ninth-inning rally, but a spectacular play by Mars Hill right fielder Devin Mangum gave Mars Hill a 4-2 win over the Wolves in the opener of their three-game South Atlantic Conference series.
Newberry (17-14, 5-5 SAC) left fielder Chase Coker hit with the bases loaded and two down in the ninth. After fouling off a pitch on a 2-2 count, Coker poked a shot down the right field line that was slicing foul, tailing away from a charging Mangum. The Lions’ defender made a catch in foul territory as he slid into the fence, holding on to the ball to preserve a dramatic 4-2 victory for Mars Hill (16-15, 5-5 SAC).
The Wolves were within striking distance thanks to a two-out rally that began with a single by Daymon Totherow and a full-count walk to Jeff Sneed. Trejon Smith ripped a single over the head of the second baseman and into right field to pull the Wolves within two runs. Pinch hitter Tommy Passerello reached on a contentious walk that set the stage for the final sequence with Coker at the plate.
Lions’ starter Zac Brown earned the win by pitching eight strong innings. He scattered five hits and struck out five without allowing a walk. Zack Kelly suffered the loss for Newberry despite adding 13 punchouts to his already gaudy strikeout numbers, recording multiple strikeouts in five of his six innings on the mound. Dylan Southerland pitched two perfect innings in relief with a pair of strikeouts.
Both pitching staffs were dominant throughout much of the latter stages of the game. Brown, Kelly, and Southerland combined to go 19 batters without allowing a hit between the top of the fifth and bottom of the eighth innings, with the only three baserunners reaching on a fielder’s choice, a walk, and an error in that span. Totherow’s ninth-inning single broke up a string of 27 of 28 hitless batters before the Wolves began their comeback attempt.
Mars Hill scored two runs apiece in the third and fourth innings. The Lions worked a two-out walk in the third before cleanup hitter Christian Stampler put Mars Hill ahead with a two-run shot to left. A triple and an infield single provided a pair of runs for Mars Hill in the fourth.
Totherow scored both runs for Newberry, including on a dramatic double-steal attempt in the second in which he and Tyler White were awarded second base and home, respectively, when the umpires called a balk. He and Mars Hill second baseman Hunter Merrill were the only players to record multiple hits in the contest.
The Wolves and Lions will conclude their series with a doubleheader tomorrow beginning at noon.