SALISBURY – UNCP registered four home runs for the second time in four days – including a pair of blasts by senior Joe Mangum – and matched a school record with its 37th win of the season as the 15th-ranked Braves trampled 11th-ranked and South Atlantic Conference regular season champion Catawba 10-3 on Thursday evening at Newman Field.
The outcome marked the fourth-consecutive victory for the Braves (37-10) who also improved to 9-7 this season against teams ranked inside the top 25. Catawba (39-11), who is ranked four spots ahead of the Black and Gold in the latest NCAA Southeast Region poll, fell for the third time in its last six outings, as well as dropped its third-consecutive outing in the series with UNCP.
Mangum cranked his fourth and fifth home runs of the season and drove in three runs to highlight a 3-for-4 night at the plate, newcomer Brad Bridgeman doubled three times and scored a quartet of runs on a perfect 4-for-4 hitting line and Josh Haley drove in four runs on a 3-for-5 plate performance for the Braves. Keith Whitman homered for the third time in four games to earmark a 2-for-5 night, with Aaron Parnell adding a multi-hit night as well with a 2-for-5 showing.
Catawba got four hits from the first three batters in its order, including a 2-for-4 performance from leadoff hitter Ryan Bostian, but a 2-for-20 performance from the remainder of its lineup.
Brian Willis (6-3) struck out seven and scattered four hits across six innings of work to grab the win for UNCP, with Braxton Lewis picking up his eighth save of the campaign by striking out four in three scoreless innings of relief. Nick Lomascolo (8-3), who entered the contest toting a team-best eight victories, dropped his second-consecutive start after yielding six runs (five earned) on seven hits and a quintet of walks in just four innings from the hill. He also struck out two.
Catawba used its first three at-bats of the contest to forge a quick 2-0 lead, but the Braves got a leadoff homer from Mangum in the second, as well as a sacrifice fly from Jason Coker, to tie the game heading to the third. The teams would trade lone runs in the fourth inning to stay all knotted up, but the Braves used a two-run blast from Mangum, as well as a two-run single from Haley, to take a 7-3 lead midway through the night.
Solo homers by Whitman in the sixth and Haley in the seventh, as well as a RBI double by Haley in the ninth, would give the visitors insurance runs and provide the final.