Bridges, Evans and Wells go yard as Seahawks ground Flyers

UNCW's Opening Day matchup goes down to the wire

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Bridges, Evans and Wells go yard as Seahawks ground Flyers

Ron Evans (25) crosses home plate during UNCW's Opening Day matchup with Dayton on Feb. 14, 2020 at Brooks Field

Ron Evans (25) crosses home plate during UNCW's Opening Day matchup with Dayton on Feb. 14, 2020 at Brooks Field

Zachary Kilby/The Seahawk

Ron Evans (25) crosses home plate during UNCW's Opening Day matchup with Dayton on Feb. 14, 2020 at Brooks Field

Zachary Kilby/The Seahawk

Zachary Kilby/The Seahawk

Ron Evans (25) crosses home plate during UNCW's Opening Day matchup with Dayton on Feb. 14, 2020 at Brooks Field

Zachary Kilby, Assistant Sports Editor

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WILMINGTON – UNC Wilmington’s Tanner Wells stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom half of the eighth and cracked a solo shot to “Homerun Hill” in left. The Seahawks headed into the bottom of the ninth trailing Dayton 9-7. 

“I wanted to be in that moment,” said Wells after the game. “The confidence that coach gave me calmed my nerves…I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team…We didn’t play our best but we always have a chance because of our talent.” 

The Seahawks sparked a late run in the final inning of the game. After the first two Seahawk batters reached base on a walk, Matt Suggs singled up the middle, bringing the ‘Hawks within one. Jac Croom continued UNCW’s late game heroics with a single of his own, bringing home the game-tying run. 

“My teammates really helped me in my last at-bat,” said Croom. “I knew I had to be myself and the guys helped calm me down.” 

All tied up at nine in the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded, UNCW relied on freshman Ron Evans to bring in the game-winning run from third. With a full count, Evans did just that. The savvy first-year man from Raleigh drew the walk that sealed a thrilling a 10-9 Seahawk victory on Opening Day. 

Early homers by both Evans and Noah Bridges sparked UNCW’s offense, which eventually helped them edge out the Flyers in dramatic fashion. 

UNCW head coach Randy Hood won his first game as the main man for the Seahawks after replacing former head coach Mark Scalf. Scalf retired as the all-time winningest coach at UNCW and in the Colonial Athletic Association after 28 seasons at the helm. 

“Just the way we drew it up,” Hood said jokingly after the wild ending. “When the decisions fall on your shoulders it seems like things move a lot faster during the game. I’m happy with the way we battled…we will keep fighting and competing until the other team gets 27 outs.” 

Junior ace, Zarion Sharpe, pitched deep into the fourth, but ran out of gas with an out to go. Reliever Breydan Gorham came into the game and shut the door, limiting the Flyers to their only four runs to that point in the game. 

Sharpe finished the ballgame with 4 2/3 innings of work, while giving up six hits and four runs. 

Two errors by the Seahawks led to a bases-loaded opportunity for Dayton in the top of the sixth. Fortunately, Gorham was able to put out the fire by striking out the final batter of the inning; adding to the long line of zeros for the Flyers. 

Dayton stayed down until the eighth inning when UNCW committed two of its six total errors. The Flyers took advantage and put up five runs in the top of the eighth, leaving the Seahawks trailing 9-6. Fortunately for the UNCW faithful, the Diamond Hawks sparked a late-game comeback in the eighth and ninth inning to start their season off on the right side of the win column. 

“We made a lot of uncharacteristic type errors tonight, hopefully we will get them out of our system,” said Hood. “It’s not how you imagine getting your first win, but I’ll take a W.” 

The Diamond Hawks play again tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m., when they take on Bryant University at Brooks Field.