GREENSBORO, N,C. -- Taylor Johnson belted a two-run ninth inning home run to lift Furman to a 9-8 victory over UNC Greensboro in Saturday afternoon Southern Conference baseball action at UNCG Baseball Stadium.
With the victory Furman (15-13, 5-6 SoCon), which has now won four straight league games and eight of its last nine clashes with UNC Greensboro (14-12, 3-8 SoCon), will go for the three-game series sweep of the Spartans in Sunday's 1:00 p.m. finale.
After watching UNCG storm back from a 6-1 deficit to take a 7-6 lead, Furman opened the ninth with a pinch hit single by Jarrod Rickman and Johnson's two-run blast off UNCG reliever Dylan Hathcock that cleared the left center field fence to give the Paladins an 8-7 advantage. Furman added an important second run to make it 9-7 when Will Miller reached on an error following Johnson's homer and later scored on a groundout by Paul Nitto.
UNCG cut it to 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth on Andrew Speth's RBI grounder, but Jacques de Gruy stranded the potential tying run at third by retiring T.J. Spina on a groundout to end the game and record his first save as a Paladin.
After both teams put up a run in the first Furman grabbed a 3-1 lead in the third on a Will Muzika RBI grounder and Nitto double that drove home Johnson.
The Paladins made it 6-1 in the fifth, scoring a three runs, two of which came on a two-run single up the middle by Nitto.
UNCG roared back with five runs in the bottom of the fifth to chase Paladin starting pitcher Nate Smith. Zach Leach's two-run triple got the rally going for the Spartans, who then got a two-run double by Lloyd Enzor and Kris Richards RBI single that knotted the game at 6-6.
The Spartans went up 7-6 an inning later, pushing across a run off Paladin reliever Elliott Warford.
Hathcock, who came on in relief in the sixth, surrendered only one hit to the Paladins in three innings of work before yielding Rickman's pinch-hit single to lead off the Furman ninth.
Nitto, who registered a career high six RBI in Friday's 11-3 Paladin victory, continued to feast on Spartan pitching, going 3-for-4 and driving in four runs. Jake Jones also had three hits and scored a pair of runs, and Johnson, a Greer, S.C., native, went 2-for-5 with two RBI. The ninth inning clout was his third of the campaign and delivered to Furman its first victory of the campaign when trailing after eight innings.
Richards paced UNCG's 15-hit attack with a 3-for-5 performance. Five others colllected two hits apiece for the Spartans.
Matt Solter (1-1) was credited with the win after coming on in the eighth and recording the first out in the ninth. Hathcock (2-3) was the loser. He pitched three innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four.