LEXINGTON, Va. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - Jake Watts had four hits and Dusty Quattlebaum knocked in four runs to power No. 5 Gardner-Webb to a 14-4 victory over No. 8 seed High Point in Game 2 of the 2011 Royal Purple Big South Baseball Championship presented by Triangle Rent A Car, May 24 at Gray-Minor Stadium. With the victory, Gardner-Webb improves to 31-21-1 and advances to the main double-elimination bracket of the tournament for the first time since joining the Conference three seasons ago. The Runnin' Bulldogs will face No. 2 seed Liberty on Wednesday at 3:00pm. High Point's season ends at 24-32.
It was a slugfest early on, as most of the scoring was done in the first three innings. High Point jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first when Mike Mercurio singled up the middle and advanced to third on Sal Pezzino's double. After Gardner-Webb starter Emilio Pagan struck out Steve Antolik, Mercurio scored on a wild pitch for the game's first run. Murray White IV flied out to center to score Pezzino from third and Ryan Retz doubled home Robbie Gilles, who had reached on the first of his four walks on the night.
Gardner-Webb cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the inning as Quattlebaum belted a two-out, two-run homer that hit the top of the centerfield wall and bounced over to score Watts, who singled before Quattlebaum's at-bat. The Runnin' Bulldogs then added four runs in the second - highlighted by Watts' two-run double, and after the Panthers scored their fourth run in the third inning, GWU added five in the bottom half to take a commanding 11-4 lead.
The Runnin' Bulldogs increased their lead to 14-4 in the fifth after Benji Jackson led off the inning with his third home run of the season, followed by run-scoring singles from Quattlebaum and Brad Collins.
Pagan allowed four runs in six innings of work to improve to 4-3. High Point starter Mike Caldwell (5-3) lasted just 1.1 innings after giving up eight hits and six runs. Spencer Andrews followed and allowed eight runs (three earned) in 3.2 frames. HPU reliever Corey Swickle tied his career-high with six strikeouts in 2.2 innings.
Watts and Jackson also had three RBI for Gardner-Webb, while Collins, Jackson and Aaron Miller had two hits each as part of GWU's 16 for the game. Retz had two hits and two RBI for the Panthers, with Antolik and Preston Packrall recording two hits as well. Gilles walked four times, tying the High Point single-game record.
For the second consecutive season and the third time since the Tournament expanded to eight teams in 2007, the top six seeds will play in the main double-elimination bracket. Meanwhile, the 2011 Baseball All-Conference teams will be announced as part of an on-field ceremony prior to Wednesday's 7:00pm game, which will feature No. 3 Charleston Southern and No. 4 Winthrop.
Gardner-Webb Head Coach Rusty Stroupe
"The monkey is finally off our back, and boy was he heavy. We are glad to finally advance to the double elimination bracket of the tournament. It was great to see the sticks come alive tonight and we had a great pitching effort to go with it. It was a total team effort, and we hope to be able to sustain it through the rest of the tournament."
High Point Head Coach Craig Cozart
"Obviously this is a difficult way to end a tough season. There were plenty of bright spots. We are very proud of our seniors and what they meant to the program. They left a great legacy and we will wake up tomorrow and start working for next season."