Mason Davis became the fifth Citadel player with a multiple home run game this season, clearing the right field fence twice and driving in a career-high five runs to lead the Bulldogs to a 12-2 victory over UNC Greensboro in the opening game of a Southern Conference series Thursday night.
The Citadel (32-22, 18-10 SoCon) moved within one win of clinching the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, which gets underway May 22 in Greenville. The Bulldogs have exploded for 33 runs and 34 hits, including nine home runs, in their last two games.
Davis joins Tyler Griffin, Bo Thompson, Calvin Orth and Joe Jackson with at least two home runs in a game, the first time in school history that five different players have accomplished that feat in a single season. Jackson also went deep against the Spartans to give The Citadel a total of 61 on the season, just the second time a Bulldog team has reached the 60 plateau.
The Citadel needs two more home runs to tie the 2007 team for the most in a regular season and nine to match that same squad for the overall record of 70. The Bulldogs tied a school record on Tuesday when they had six circuit clouts in a 21-6 victory over Charleston Southern, and The Citadel is attempting to lead the SoCon in home runs for the first time in school history.
Senior Austin Pritcher, a leading candidate for SoCon Pitcher of the Year, did not have his best stuff but was able to limit UNCG (22-31, 9-19) to two runs on eight hits with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. He won his fifth straight decision and finished the regular season with a record of 8-2 and an ERA of 2.45.
Davis had three hits including a two-run homer in the fourth that gave The Citadel a 6-0 lead and a three-run blast in the seventh that put the finishing touches on the Bulldog victory. Jackson added two doubles, a home run and sacrifice fly and drove in four runs, and Hughston Armstrong and Drew DeKerlegand also had three-hit contests.
Jackson continued his late-season push for SoCon Player of the Year, increasing his season totals to 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 58 RBI and a batting average of .360. His sacrifice fly and run-scoring singles by Griffin and DeKerlegand got the offense started quickly in a three-run first inning, and the Bulldogs were never seriously threatened.
Jackson led off the third with a solo homer and followed Davis' first homer of the night with an RBI double to stake The Citadel to a 7-0 cushion in the fourth. Jackson also doubled in a run in the sixth, and Bailey Rush added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Pritcher was able to work around four singles over the first three innings before being tagged for a solo homer by Eric Kalbfleisch leading off the fourth. The Spartans also scored in the fifth when Griffin just missed coming up with a spectacular diving catch in right center that ended up as an RBI double for Lloyd Enzor.
Pritcher won for the 22nd time in his career, the most by any active SoCon pitcher, and has not lost in his last seven starts. James Reeves came in with runners on the corners and two outs in the sixth and retired Christian Wolfe, the conference's leading hitter, on a fly out to left.
Reeves went 1 1/3 innings and allowed one hit and fanned two. Zach Sherrill worked a hitless eighth with a pair of strikeouts, extending his school record with his 42nd appearance of the year, and Ross White surrendered two hits and struck out one in the ninth.
Junior left hander Logan Cribb will take the mound in Friday's 6 p.m. start against UNCG righty Max Povse. The regular season wraps up Saturday at 1 p.m., after which the seedings for the SoCon tournament will be determined.