PEMBROKE — In the middle of a crowded pitching staff for the 16th-ranked University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Jordan DeLoatch has found his niche this season as a trusted mid-week starter.
Perfect in four starts coming into Wednesday’s region tilt with Pfeiffer, the junior lefty enjoyed the best outing of his career, facing two over the minimum with a career-high 10 strikeouts for a complete-game shutout during the Braves’ 5-0 win.
“I knew going out there (in the first inning) I felt a lot better than I ever have,” DeLoatch said.
Pfeiffer’s only scoring threat came in the top of the first after UNCP catcher Max Gagnon threw wide of first following Kevin Price’s whiff on a two-strike breaking ball. DeLoatch buckled down and sat down the Falcons’ 2-3-4 hitters in order to strand Price at second base.
DeLoatch found a groove in the later inning and retired the last 14 batters he faced during his first career shutout in a game lasting just an hour and 49 minutes.
“I came in the dugout (after the second inning) and tried to figure out what was going on with my changeup and curveball,” DeLoatch said. “I started throwing my change up for strikes in the third and fourth and then really figured it out by the seventh.”
Pfeiffer (19-13) managed eight hits and three runs off DeLoatch over seven innings during the teams’ first matchup on March 11, but couldn’t figure out UNCP’s crafty southpaw this time around.
DeLoatch gave up two hits, the second leading off the fifth on a bouncer through the middle from Brett Miller. He responded with a strikeout of Zac Chilton for the first out then induced John Elwood into double play to end the frame.
Pfeiffer’s hardest hit ball all afternoon was struck by Dylan Goodman on a 3-1 delivery in the top of the fourth that chased UNCP outfielder Victor Zecca to the warning track.
Goodman got all of a DeLoatch inside fastball, but Zecca had enough time to haul it in a foot from the wall in left.
“I knew with the wind blowing in, it would take a lot to get a ball out of here,” DeLoatch said. “Our defense is great and always makes plays when the ball’s hit to them. With it blowing in about 20 miles per hour, they could hit it as hard as they wanted and it wasn’t going to get out of here.”
Dalton Knight continued his recent tear for the Braves by plating his team’s first run in the bottom of the first on a two-out single to left. He added a sacrifice fly two innings later that put UNCP ahead, 3-0.
Third baseman Jordan Edgerton saw a personal-best 17-game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-4.
The Braves (23-8) next battle North Georgia at home this weekend in a key Peach Belt Conference three-game set. Logan Cook (4-1, 4.50 ERA), Garrett Hickman (6-1, 2.00) and Andy Sullivan (4-4, 3.82) are UNCP’s expected starters.
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
UNCP 5, Pfeiffer 0
WP — DeLoatch (5-0). LP — Little (3-3).
Leading hitters — UNCP: Zecca 3-4, RBI; Fraga 2-3; Knight 1-3, 2 RBI.
Records — UNCP 23-8; Pfeiffer 19-13.