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Diamond Braves finish regular season on five-game winning streak
By Nick Phillips
The UNCP baseball team wrapped up the regular season portion of its 2011 with five wins in seven days, beginning with a blowout win over St. Andrews on April 25 and finishing the week by grabbing their third win of the season against Barton May 1.
The five wins moved the Braves season record to 38-10, giving the team the highest regular season winning percentage since 1969. The 38 wins also pass the 2009 team for the most victories in a single season.
On April 25, UNCP picked up an easy, 20-5 win over regional rival St. Andrews, but saw senior Keith Whitman go down in the school record books in the victory.
The Braves tallied 19 hits in the game, with six players turning in multi-hit performances.
Whitman blasted a two-run homer to center field in the fourth inning for career home run No. 41, giving him the most home runs in Braves history.
His blast came after taking a pitch to the face that broke his nose during his previous at-bat in the third inning.
Video of Whitman’s two at-bats has gone viral, making it all the way to ESPN.com.The video can be viewed here.
A day after routing St. Andrews, the Braves were back in action against visiting Chowan, squeezing out a 2-1 win in game one before an 11-1 victory in the second game of the doubleheader on April 26.
With the two wins, UNCP finishes the home portion of their 2011 schedule with a 29-2 record, winning the last 10 games at Sammy Cox Field.
In the opener, UNCP put together back-to-back one-out RBI singles by senior Kenny Mickens and junior Brad Bridgeman in the third inning for all the runs it would need.
Senior pitcher Josh Bagley earned his fifth victory of the season after striking out three batters and allowing only five hits and one run over five innings of work for the Braves.
In the second game, the Braves exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning as part of an 11-hit night for the wide margin of victory.
Redshirt-junior Brian Collins threw six innings on the hill for UNCP, allowing only four hits while striking out four batters en route to his third win of the season.
The 15th-ranked team in the nation ripped through No. 11 Catawba on the road April 28, with the Braves’ grabbing a 10-3 win in a game that drew regional and national attention.
UNCP was ranked sixth in the initial NCAA Division II Southeast Region Poll that came out April 20, while Catawba was ranked second in the same poll. This poll is relied on heavily in selection of the 48 teams and eight regional sites that will make up the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship field.
The Braves received four home runs from their lineup, including two blasts from senior Joe Mangum as part of his three-hit day. Bridgeman tallied three doubles as part of a perfect 4-for-4 day, while Whitman and junior Aaron Parnell each added two hits in the game.
Senior Brian Willis grabbed his sixth win of the season after going six innings on the mound while allowing only four hits and striking out seven batters.
The Braves ended their regular season with a 5-0 win over Barton on May 1.
The win finished the two teams’ season series, with UNCP winning each of the three matchups.
Offensively, the Braves had three home runs, one each from Bridgeman (2-for-3) and juniors Josh Haley (1-for-3) and Eitan Maoz (2-for-4). Senior Jason Coker also added two hits to the cause.
Senior Brad Isom threw seven shutout innings en route to his ninth win of the season for the Braves. Isom allowed only five scattered hits and struck out four batters.
UNCP will be the Eastern Division’s No. 3 seed in the upcoming Peach Belt Conference Tournament in Columbus, Ga., from May 8-12, and also have hopes of making the NCAA Division II National Tournament field of 48 teams.
NCAA Regional tournaments are May 19-23 before the Championship rounds are held in Cary, N.C. ,May 28-June 4.