GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Taylor Johnson went 5-for-5, drove in three runs, and scored three times to power Furman to a 13-7 victory over UNCG in Southern Conference baseball action Saturday afternoon at Latham Stadium.
With the win Furman (27-23, 13-16 SoCon) halted a four-game losing skid and moved closer to qualifying for SoCon Tournament play, which gets underway May 22 at Fluor Field for the league's top eight teams. The Paladins' victory, coupled with Samford's loss to Elon on Saturday, extended seventh place Furman's lead over eighth place Samford (10-15 SoCon) to one game and to two games over idle ninth place Davidson (10-17).
Furman and UNCG (22-28, 9-17 SoCon) will play the series finale Sunday beginning at 1:00 p.m.
Johnson's career best five-hit performance included singles in his first three at bats, a double in the fifth, and single in the seventh — highlighting an 18-hit hit attack by the Paladins.
Furman's big offensive display provided more than enough support for starting pitcher Nate Smith (5-4), who allowed only two runs on nine hits over seven innings. The Paladin senior left-hander, who during one stretch retired 10 of 11 Spartan hitters, walked one and struck out six to become only the eighth pitcher in Furman history to record 200-plus (203) strikeouts.
The Paladins provided Smith with early run support, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the first and plating six more in the second off of UNCG starting pitcher Corey Taylor (1-7). In sending 10 batters to the plate in the second, Furman scored five of its six runs with two outs on the strength of six consecutive hits, including a two-run single by Johnson, an RBI double by Greg Harrison, a two-run single off the bat of Alex Abrams, and a Chris Ohmstede RBI single.
Ohmstede blew the game open in his next at bat in the fourth with his team leading 11th home run of the season — a three-run clout to left center field off of Spartan reliever Dominique Vattuone — that gave the Paladins a 10-1 lead.
The Paladins tacked on single runs in the fifth, seventh, and eighth to stretch their advantage to 13-2 before UNCG posted a five spot in the ninth, helped by a two-out grand slam to right center field by Eric Kalbfleisch.
Ohmstede drove in four runs with a 2-for-4 performance. Greg Harrison, meanwhile, continued his late season hot streak with a 3-for-6 outing that featured two doubles, two RBI and a run, and Will Muzika doubled and scored three runs. Jordan Simpson also had two hits for the Paladins as every starter scratched in the hit column.
UNCG finished with 16 hits, led by Kalbfleisch, whose grand slam keyed his 3-for-5, four-RBI day.
Taylor suffered the brunt of Furman's early game offensive assault, working just two innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits and three walks. He fanned one.