FLORENCE, S.C. — One thing baseball players love about the frequency and number of games on the schedule is the next opportunity for redemption is rarely far away.
Christian Umphlett made the most of his chance Friday in the Patriots’ 7-4 win over Augusta in the teams’ Peach Belt Conference opener on Cormell Field at Sparrow Stadium. The series is set to wrap up today in a noon doubleheader.
Umphlett had a tough day last weekend in a loss to Lenoir-Rhyne, giving up six runs on six hits in just 1 1/3 innings of relief.
Against the Jaguars on Friday, the sophomore right-hander from Charlotte, N.C., showed why coach Art Inabinet likes having him for long relief stints.
After starter Sam High couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning, Umphlett (1-1) went the final 5 2/3 innings to get the win, allowing just two hits, a walk and striking out three. All four Augusta runs were charged to High.
“The other day, I wasn’t on with my slider and my command was just off,” Umphlett said. “But today I had much better command and I had a lot of guys behind me make really good plays. After a game like I had [against L-R], you want to go out there and prove yourself. Today was a big confidence boost and I got a lot of it back.”
Umphlett was right about his defense, as well. Whether it was an outfielder tracking down a ball near the fence or shortstop C.J. Mackinson diving to stop a grounder in the hole and throwing out the runner at first, the Patriot defense was up to the task.
And count Mackinson among those who used Friday as an opportunity to wash a bad taste out of his mouth. Mackinson was ineligible to play in FMU’s 6-4 loss to No. 20 Mount Olive on Tuesday after being ejected from the game against Lenoir-Rhyne on Saturday.
Besides a couple of sparkling defensive plays, Mackinson also was 4-for-5 with a stolen base and two runs scored.
“C.J. is a really good player and we just about can’t do without him on defense,” Inabinet said.
But just like against Mount Olive, the Patriots (3-2, 1-0 Peach Belt) were without a few players for various reasons. Because of illness, Tee DuBose missed his second straight game and Cole Hinnant was out, as well. Second baseman Brody Thomasson was a late scratch because of an injury, and Inabinet himself was under the weather.
“We’ve got the flu bug going around here, and that’s not good,” he said.
But the Patriots had enough to get past the Jaguars, even after Augusta (0-4, 0-1) erased a 3-0 deficit with a four-run fourth inning. The big blow in that frame was Ty Hobbs’ three-run homer that put the Jags ahead 4-3.
The Patriots, though, answered in the bottom of the sixth. Trey Chapman singled with one out and went to second on Henry Davis IV’s bunt single. Gage Taylor followed with an RBI single to score Chapman, tying the game at 4.
Reliever Casey Lenoch walked Steven Cox to load the bases, and Alex Griffith drove a single through the left side, scoring Davis and Taylor to put FMU up 6-4.
The Patriots grabbed an insurance run in the seventh when Taylor drew a bases-loaded walk.
Charlie Cochran (0-1), Augusta’s second pitcher of the day, was tagged with the loss. Cochran gave up four hits and three runs in 3 2/3 innings with a walk and four strikeouts.
Griffith had three hits for FMU, which left 11 runners stranded.
“Real proud of the guys,” Inabinet said. “We got 13 hits. We got some big hits. We still left too many guys on base. But I think the day belongs to Christian Umphlett. He came in and stopped them cold.”