PEMBROKE — With two outs and runners on second and third base in the seventh inning on Saturday night, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke right fielder Kevon Perkins took matters into his own hands.
Winston-Salem State was in position to break a tie game and potentially stave off a series sweep when John Garcia smacked a fly ball in Perkins’ direction. The redshirt junior raced back toward the right field wall and sprawled out to make the catch, getting pitcher Gunner Deal out of the inning while giving the Braves another chance to win the game.
“When I see it go up, I just try my hardest to get to it and make a play for our pitchers,” Perkins said.
Perkins’ defensive heroics paid dividends for the Braves, as they recovered from an early deficit and finished a three-game sweep of the Rams with a 15-6 victory.
“If he doesn’t catch that ball, two runs are in, and the guy (Garcia) is probably standing on third base,” UNCP head coach Paul O’Neil said about the diving play. “That was huge, to get out of the inning at that point with him making that catch.”
Perkins also made his presence known at the plate, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and a double. Ethan Baucom finished 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Jarratt Mobley registered a 2-for-3 clip with two RBIs.
It was the bat of Seth Hartings that made a big difference for the Braves in the bottom of the seventh inning. With the score tied at six, Hartings launched a three-run home run that gave the Braves the lead.
“He really hit that ball hard. He hit it a long way,” O’Neil said. “The wind’s blowing straight in at about 20 miles per hour, and he hit it through that wind. That just tells you how hard he hit that baseball.”
Hartings went 2-for-5 at the plate with four RBIs.
The Braves piled on five unanswered runs in the eighth to cushion their lead.
Cole Lovin started on the mound for the Braves and yielded six hits and three runs over three innings. The Fairmont native struck out two batters and walked one.
Gunner Deal picked up the win for the Braves after pitching the final four innings. Deal allowed three hits and surrendered one run while fanning four batters.
“We’re starting to build him up more where he can go four, five, maybe six innings. He doesn’t have to be just a one inning type of guy. Once he settled in, he threw the ball really well,” O’Neil said.
Brandon Ford went 4-for-5 with two runs scored an an RBI for the Rams. Randal Ortiz tallied a home run for the visitors.
Tyrese Hearst took the loss after giving up four hits and four runs in two innings of relief for the Rams.
“We needed that. We needed to gain momentum,” O’Neil said. “That’s four games in a row that we’ve won now. We were 4-0 this week, so obviously that’s very important.”
The Braves will host Barton on Tuesday in one of two matchups against the Bulldogs this season. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Barton will host the second meeting on April 10.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Tester_Brandon.