West Point, GA – UC began its 2017 season on Friday as they traveled south to take on the Sky Hawks of Point University, a team who made their way to the 2016 NAIA World Series tournament last year. The Patriots would open up the offensive attack early while riding the arm of a seasoned veteran for UC en route to a 4-0 shutout win, taking down a team who received votes in the NAIA Preseason Top 25 poll.
The first two innings were rather quiet for both teams with just one combined hit between the two. In the top of the third though is when UC's offense came to work. Dexter Wilson, Jr. led the inning off with a walk before seeing a fly out to center for the first out of the inning. The Patriot leadoff man Kevin Pantoja (SR/Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) would then reach on a fielder's choice as Wilson, Jr. was forced out at second, putting two away with one on. There, Jesse Reyes (SR/Palm Springs, CA) would open up the scoring with a RBI triple to left center, scoring Pantoja to give UC the 1-0 lead. Andrew Ramos (JR/Orange, CA) would then drive in Reyes on a RBI single to make it 2-0 Patriots. Britton Elmore (SO/Cecilia, KY) would come in to courtesy run for Ramos, but it was unnecessary as Bryan Benz (SO/Arlington, TX) would belt a two-run blast to deep left-center on the first pitch of the at-bat to send the Patriots up 4-0.
From there on, it was a quiet night for both teams as UC would muster up two more hits in the game. Patriot starting pitcher Noah Gapp (SR/St. Albert, Alberta) was on the hill and was looking to take the challenge head-on and did so very well. Gapp would mow down the Sky Hawks in mid-season fashion, looking as if he was ready to go another game if necessary. Gapp would finish out the night on his own, going the full nine innings allowing no runs on just three hits and two walks while sitting eight down on strikes in the Patriots' 4-0 season opening win.
The Patriots would spread five hits out in the contest including singles from Landon Byron (SR/Johnson City, TN) and Roberto Prado (JR/Vega Baja, P.R.) while Prado would also add a stolen base in the game.
Head Coach Brad Shelton commented, "It's good to start the year with a win. Noah pitched his heart out tonight and one big inning offensively held up for us. Point has a good team that returns most of the players from last year's World Series run. Tomorrow's games will be tough, but thanks to the complete game from Gapp tonight, we've got plenty of pitching. I expect us to compete really hard and have better AB's tomorrow."
The Patriots take on Point in a non-conference doubleheader on Saturday, February 4th with the first pitch set for 1 pm. Live video and stat links are available online.
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