Three Winthrop pitchers combined on a five-hit shutout as the Eagles took a 10-0 non-conference win over Furman at The Winthrop Ballpark on Tuesday night.
Matt Pierpont (1-2) made the most of his second starting assignment of the season. The Eagles' sophomore threw the first five innings against Furman. The righthander yielded just a pair of singles to Alex Abrams in the second and fifth innings. He did not walk a batter.
"I was able to throw all three pitches for strikes. I worked down in the zone to make them hit ground balls and let my defense make the plays behind me," Pierpont said.
Pierpoint worked ahead of almost every hitter and induced seven groundouts. He said he could have gone deeper into the game but Winthrop coach Tom Riginos needed to spread the innings around.
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Wade Newman struck out three in three innings in one of his best outings of the year. Justin Hopper fanned two Paladins in the final inning.
Riginos has taken note of Pierpont's progression. Pierpoint threw 5 1-3 innings in a 10-0 loss at then-No. 1 Florida on March 23. Riginos and Pierpont said the performance was much better than the score indicated.
Tuesday's showing had the stats to back up the effort.
"He pitched ahead in the count. Whenever a pitcher jumps the count he's going to be tougher to beat," Riginos said. "He only got one strikeout, but he got a lot of ground balls."
Pierpont knocked more than four runs off his bloated earned run average. His ERA dropped to 7.43 from 11.88.
The shutout was the Eagles' first this season. Winthrop's last shutout came on May 1, 2010, against Presbyterian when Matteo D'Angelo went the distance with a three-hitter.
Winthrop (11-13) came into the game having lost five of its last six contests. The Eagles play a three-game Big South Conference series at High Point beginning Friday night.
Winthrop tied a season high with 14 hits, all singles, off seven Furman pitchers. The Eagles also set season bests with six stolen bases and four hit-batsmen.
Tyler Cook, Eddie Rohan, Adam Gliebe and T.J. Olesczuk had two hits apiece. Olesczuk drove in two runs.
In the third inning, Cam Walters reached on a two-out single and took second on a passed ball. Cook followed with a line shot off of Furman starting pitcher Stephen Gary's left (throwing) elbow. The ball ricocheted into right field allowing Walters to score.
Gary left the game, trailing 1-0.
Matt Plate came on in relief and hit the first two batters he faced to load the bases. Winthrop designated hitter Brett Thomas fell behind 0-2 before working the count full. Thomas took a called third strike to end the inning.
Winthrop left 14 men on base; too many for Riginos' liking. He has seen his team load the bases and come up empty a couple times in the last two weeks.
"That will haunt us if we do that later in the year," he said.
The Eagles added another run in the fourth when Patrick Gamblin led off with a base hit and stole second base. Gamblin scored on Matt Lobacz's single to center field. Lobacz was gunned down trying to stretch the hit into a double.
Winthrop broke the game open with a three-run sixth. Max Vogel delivered a pinch-hit single in the Eagles' four-run eighth. Vogel had been sidelined since the third game of the season with a stress fracture in his foot.
Riginos said it was a priority to get Vogel an at-bat in this game.
"(Vogel) will be counted on this weekend. We need him to add outfield depth," Riginos said. "We definitely wanted to give him a live look at pitching tonight."
Furman (13-14) had won seven of its last nine coming into the game. The Paladins beat South Carolina, 4-2, on March 15 and upended Georgia, 3-0, on March 2. Both games were played at Greenville's Fluor Field.
Furman begins a stretch of 11 straight home games tonight against Charleston Southern.