MOUNT OLIVE – Hayden Buffkin hit a go-ahead home run in the sixth to help support right-hander Anthony Burke‘s second complete game of the season and the 28th-ranked UNC Pembroke baseball powered past 30th-ranked Catawba, 6-2, in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Southeast Regional on Thursday evening at Mount Olive’s Scarborough Field.
The victory for the Braves (41-15) sets up a winner’s bracket contest with the host Trojans (47-8) on Friday afternoon at Scarborough Field. First pitch for that contest has been slated for 3 p.m. The Indians (37-16) will not play again until Saturday afternoon when they face the loser of Friday’s contest between second-seeded North Georgia and third-seeded USC Aiken, both of whom posted wins in the opening round.
UNCP improved to 2-0 in NCAA postseason openers with Thursday’s triumph, and has now captured seven of the last 10 matchups with Catawba, including a 4-3 win over the Indians in the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional.
Buffkin drove in a pair of runs and scored once to highlight a 2-for-4 night at the plate for the senior, while Drew Beaver (1-for-4) grabbed the rest of the momentum with a double in the eighth. Nick Debo (2-for-4, RBI) and Jarratt Mobley (2-for-4, 2 R) turned in a pair of multi-hit nights for the Black & Gold as well.
Luke Setzer, Kyle Smith and Bryce Fowler all recorded 2-for-4 nights to lead the Indians.
Burke (11-1) won for the seventh time in the last eight starts, this time striking out five and scattering seven hits over his second complete game effort of the season. The junior from Fredericksburg, Va., sat down nine in a row at one point during the middle innings, but retired the last eight batters he faced in a show of force in the later frames. He became the first UNCP player in 43 years (Ron Norman, 1974) to notch 11 or more victories in a season as well.
Russ Weiker (4-4) yielded three earned runs on five hits in seven innings of work to take the loss for the Indians.
The Braves scratched the scoreboard first on Debo’s two-out RBI single in the first, but the Indians answered in the home half of the frame, getting Setzer aboard via a leadoff single, and then knotting things back up on a sunshine-aided two-out RBI double from Almond.
Mobley drew a five-pitch walk to lead off the sixth and moved into scoring position two batters later on a hard grounder that tacked a second out up on the board, and Baucom smashed a 0-and-1 offering from Weiker over the fence in left field for the 3-1 advantage.
Catawba sliced its deficit in half on Nick Coble’s sacrifice fly with one out in the seventh, but the Black & Gold loaded the bases with its first three at-bats in the eighth and broke the game wide open on Beaver’s bases-clearing double with two outs.
Story Credit: UNCP