Sharpe returns as Seahawks take doubleheader

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Sharpe returns as Seahawks take doubleheader

No. 8 Cole Weiss

No. 8 Cole Weiss

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

No. 8 Cole Weiss

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

No. 8 Cole Weiss

Brian Carpenter, Staff Writer

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Following the postponement of Friday’s series-opening game against Valparaiso, UNC Wilmington (6-5) baseball defeated the Crusaders in both games of a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at Brooks Field. Here is how it happened.

Game 1: UNCW 10, Valparaiso 8

 Junior Luke Gesell made his third start of the season for the Seahawks. However, this outing was almost a complete opposite to how his first two outings went against Saint Joseph’s and Indiana State. Gesell did not pitch out of the third inning as he gave three earned runs in 2.2 innings and 60 pitches.

A total of nine runs would be scored in the first three innings of Game One and the Seahawks found themselves with a 5-4 lead after three. The highlight came when Jackson Meadows hit the first home run of his college career over the left field wall to get the Seahawks back into the game after Gesell gave up three first-inning runs.

After the Seahawks tacked on three more runs between the fifth and sixth innings, UNCW took an 8-4 lead into the seventh. Valpo (1-6) would manage to tie the game at eight in the top of the seventh as nine men came to the plate in the inning and four runs came across.

Following two walks and a sac bunt, Cole Weiss stepped to the plate with runners on second and third for UNCW. Weiss would single into centerfield which allowed Greg Jones and Noah Bridges to score to put the Seahawks ahead 10-8. This would be Weiss’s first of two go-ahead hits on the day.

“Most of my big hits are up in the middle and left field so I wasn’t trying to do too much,” said Weiss. “Just was trying to see a good pitch that I can drive and put a good swing on it.”

Game 2: UNCW 4, Valparaiso 3

In Game Two, it was Zarion Sharpe who made his season debut for the Seahawks. This was Sharpe’s first start since March 17, 2018 against Quinnipiac. Sharpe had to recover from shoulder surgery that he had last season that set him back a few weeks in 2019. Sharpe only went his expected two innings and managed to give up one earned run, two hits and record his first strikeout of 2019 over 28 pitches.

“Once the game started, I really calmed down,” said Sharpe about the emotions of pitching in his first game in almost a calendar year. “Just felt like another game. I was excited to go back out and compete with these guys.”

“It’s been a long process but now it is just back to normal,” added Sharpe.

Brody Lawson took over for Sharpe in the third and was in a single word impressive. Lawson went five innings out of the bullpen, giving up just one hit, two unearned runs, and struck out four Crusaders over 18 batters faced and 71 pitches.

Offensively, the Seahawks struggled to muster much against Valpo’s starter Jon Tieman. However, once the Seahawks got into the Valpo bullpen, things started to turn in UNCW’s favor.

“He (Tieman) kept us off balance all game but we definitely got away from our approach at the plate. Once he got out, we definitely had a little more confidence and got it going at the end.”

Following a leadoff walk for catcher Matt Suggs and a single from Bridges, the Seahawks had the first two men on the inning. Meadows would hit a double into the left-center field gap scoring Suggs, the Seahawks had evened the game at two. The next at-bat, Weiss hit a single into center field scoring Jones and Meadows and UNCW found themselves with a Saturday doubleheader sweep.

Stat of the Day: UNCW’s 13 total hits in Game One was a season-high for the team. Brody Lawson picked up his first career win in Game Two and Landen Roupp picked up his first save of his career closing out Game Two.

Quote of the Day: “We played very solid defensively all day long. We had one mistake in the second game but outside of that, I thought we made some outstanding plays that backed our pitching staff.” -UNCW Baseball Head Coach Mark Scalf