Northwestern High graduate hits first career homerun as Winthrop wins 6-1

Posted April 3, 2013 7:35 am | Filed under Sports

ROCK HILL, SC–Chad Smith cracked his first collegiate home run and Winthrop got a strong pitching performance from starter Joey Strain as the Eagles defeated Wofford 6-1 Tuesday night at The Winthrop Ballpark.

The win was the second straight for Winthrop which improves to 10-19 while Wofford falls to 13-17.

“I thought this was our most complete game of the season in all phases–hitting, pitching and defense,” said Winthrop head coach Tom Riginos. “We were just solid all the way through and that is what I was most happy with. I’m starting to see a change a little bit in the team. I saw the confidence start to go up after last Saturday’s second game, and we had a heck of a performance tonight.”

Smith, a product of Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, also had the second three-hit game in a row and second of his career as the sophomore led a 10-hit Winthrop attack.

Smith cracked his first collegiate home run to score Max Vogel ahead of him to give the Eagles a 2-1 in the second inning and the Winthrop pitching staff made the two runs stand up for the non-conference win. Vogel had led off the inning with a single to right field before Smith drove a Tanner Hawley fast ball that just cleared the fence in straightaway left field.

“Chad was aggressive at the plate and hit a first-pitch fast ball over the left field fence,” said Riginos. “That was a big hit and is an example of the production that we are getting in the bottom half of the lineup. During the first half of the season we weren’t getting much production out of the bottom half of our lineup, but tonight Smitty got three hits, Barber had another hit, and Luke (Maldonado) had a big two-out hit and Michael Patrick came up with a RBI single there in the eighth.”

Wofford had scored an unearned run in the top of the inning as the Terriers pulled a double steal with two outs in the frame. James Plaisted drew a walk off Winthrop starter and winning pitcher Joey Strain. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Clark Wise and then moved to third when shortstop Kyle Edwards mishandled a grounder by Matthew Pelt to put runners on the corners. Pelt took off for second and on the throw by Winthrop catcher Austen Barber, Plaisted stole home.

Winthrop extended its lead to 3-1 with a run in the third as Cody Dolan slapped a run-scoring single up the middle to score Edwards who led off the inning with a base hit and was sacrificed to second by Jace Whitley..

The Eagles threatened again in the sixth when Smith delivered a two-out single and moved around to third when Barber drove a double into the right field corner. Those two hits ended the night for Hawley who left the mound in favor of reliever Will Stillman who ended the inning with a strikeout.

Two throwing errors by Wofford shortstop Alec Paradowski led to three big insurance runs for the Eagles after Stillman retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the eighth. Vogel drew a walk and advanced to second when Smith reached on a throwing error. Barber followed with a routine grounder to the shortstop who made another errant throw to first that loaded the bases. Luke Maldonado then dumped a flair just inside the right field foul line that scored Vogel and Smith and moved Barber to third. Connell Anderson came into relieve Stillman and was promptly greeted by a single to center by Michael Patrick that scored Barber with the third run of the inning.

Winthrop closer Eric Ruth got his sixth save of the season after surviving a shaky eighth inning before striking out the side in the ninth. He came on in the eighth and had a shaky inning, but worked his way out of a jam that was helped by a pick-off play at third base. He hit one batter, gave up two singles and made two wild pitches, but escaped without giving up a run and leaving Terriers stranded at second and third.

Strain, a freshman righthander from Prince Frederick, MD evened his record at 3-3 as he went five innings while allowing the one unearned run and scattering four hits. He fanned four Terriers and did not walk a batter.

Winthrop will be back in action this weekend when it travels to Radford for a three-game Big South Conference series while Wofford travels to Auburn.