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May 14, 2010
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Sophomore Austin Liput (Oviedo, Fla./Trinity Prep) and Austin Moyer (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford) used the long ball to help the USC Upstate baseball team score all six of its runs and the Spartans' pitching staff averted several late-inning rallies to hold off Kennesaw State, 6-5, in the opener of a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference series at Harley Park on Friday night.
Liput pounded a first-inning grand slam to give Upstate (17-35 overall, 7-18 A-Sun) a 4-0 lead before Moyer pounded a two-run homer in the fourth to give Upstate a six-run cushion. The Owls (20-29 overall, 9-13 A-Sun) fought back with a four-run fifth and one-run in the sixth, but Upstate's defense came to the rescue late, making several big plays to hold down the win.
Junior center fielder Blake Green (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern) started the Web Gem display by making a leaping catch in deep center field in the seventh inning with one out, saving a sure double.
Tanner made a heads up play in the top of the eighth with two outs and runners on the corners. As the runner on first stole second, Tanner faked a throw to second and then fired to third to pick off the lead Kennesaw runner, with freshman Gaither Bumgardner (Fort Lawn, S.C./Great Falls) waiting to apply the tag.
The game ended as Kennesaw State issued a hit-and-run with one out in the ninth as Drew Foulkes hit a liner up the middle, but freshman Brody Greer (Honea Path, S.C./Belton-Honea Path) was already moving to cover the bag. He caught the ball leaning to his left at his knees and went back to tag the runner for the unassisted double play.
The Spartans jumped out in the first inning as senior Brian Dempsey (Montverde, Fla./East Ridge) led off by drilling a single up the middle and freshman Trey Richardson (Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins) followed by reaching on an error. After senior Jimmy Tanner (Fayetteville, Ga./Starr's Mill) drew a 3-2 walk and a pop up, Liput delivered his bases-loaded blast off the scoreboard in left-center to give Upstate the early 4-0 lead.
Liput led off the fourth inning with a single and sophomore Austin Moyer (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford) followed with a two-run blast over the right-center field wall.
The Owls fired back in the fifth inning with four runs, highlighting the inning with a three-run homer to right field from Bucky Smith, closing Upstate's lead to 6-4. The Spartans also lost an opportunity in the bottom of the frame, as they loaded the bases with no outs, but a strikeout and a double play ended the inning.
The Owls drew within a run in the top of the sixth, thanks to a double from Peyton Hart and a RBI single from Sean McClurken, but Branham left the tying run at second base by striking out the last two batters of the inning.
Senior Matt Branham (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) (5-3) won his fifth game of the season by tossing seven innings, allowing five runs and 11 hits. He walked one and struck out eight, the second-highest total for him this season.
The win was Branham's 16th in his career, moving him into sixth-place on the all-time list, while his 256 strikeouts are five shy of the school-record of 261 set by Scott Eckard (2005-08).
Freshman Chris Knauff (Marietta, Ga./Walden) earned a hold by tossing a scoreless eighth, allowing a hit, but tossing just 11 pitches before yielding to senior Tyler Oliver (Lawrenceville, Ga./Collins Hill), who posted his sixth save of the season by tossing the scoreless ninth. He also allowed a hit.
Ryan Rodebaugh (4-6) took the loss for Kennesaw State, allowing five earned runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two.
Liput led the Spartans with a 3-for-4 game, a run and four RBI. Moyer added a 2-for-3 game with a run and two RB and both Bumgardner and Green also collected two of Upstate's 12 hits.
Hart went 3-for-4 with two runs to lead the Owls and Tyler Stubblefield, Smith, McClurken, Josh Whitaker and Ronnie Freeman each added two of Kennesaw State's 13 hits.
Upstate and Kennesaw State wrap up their three-game A-Sun set on Saturday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader at Harley Park.