PEMBROKE, NC — Junior right fielder Will Hardee walloped a two-run homer in the seventh inning and senior right-hander Reece Kleinhelter sparkled in relief as Francis Marion University rallied for an 8-7 win over 13th-ranked UNC Pembroke, Monday afternoon (April 12) in Peach Belt Conference baseball action.
FMU evens its season mark at 14-14 and the Patriots move to 12-14 in PBC play, while UNCP drops to 24–6 and 20-4.
The Patriots were to have played Queens University of Charlotte in Kannapolis, N.C., on Tuesday, but that game has been postponed due to covid protocols within the Royals’ program. Francis Marion will host Columbus State University for a three-game series this weekend, beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Hardee finished with three hits, including the home run that erased a 7-6 UNCP lead. Sophomore left fielder Carson Jones and junior second baseman Tanner Wakefield both collected two hits, as did senior outfielder Bill Hanna, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter and remained in to play center field.
Kleinhelter (2-1) pitched the final six innings, allowing only one unearned run on two hits. He fanned five and did not issue a walk.
A one-out double by Wakefield followed by an RBI-single to right from Hardee produced a 1-0 Francis Marion advantage in the top of the first. The Braves took advantage of four hits and three FMU errors to score six unearned runs in the second to take a 6-1 lead.
The Patriots crept to within 6-4 with three runs in the top of the fourth. An RBI-single by sophomore designated hitter Austin Moore, a run-scoring triple down the right field line by sophomore outfielder Jack Hegan and a sacrifice fly by sophomore first baseman Harrison Bigham accounted for the rally. However, a fielding error in the bottom of the frame allowed the Braves to score once and assume a 7-4 lead.
Pinch-hitting, Hanna doubled down the left field line to open the FMU fifth. Following a single by Jones, Wakefield plated Hanna with a single back up the middle to trim the margin to 7-5.
Hanna sparked the go-ahead rally in the seventh with a leadoff single. He then stole second, moved to third on a single by Jones, and came home with FMU’s sixth run on a sacrifice fly to right by Wakefield. Hardee followed with his two-run clout over the right field wall that completed the Francis Marion comeback.
Kleinhelter retired eight of the final nine UNCP batters.
FMU senior infielder Todd Mattox recorded a seventh-inning single to extend his streak of safely reaching base to 36 games dating back to last season.
Braves relief pitcher River Ryan (3-1) was the losing pitcher.
Courtesy – Francis Marion Athletics