USCB baseball took a big step towards a Sun Conference tournament spot Friday and Saturday, notching a massive three-game sweep of Ave Maria with 6-2, 10-5, and 12-1 victories at Richard Gray Stadium in Hardeeville.
The Sand Sharks got started right away in game one, taking a 1-0 lead with a Leandy Castro first-inning home run. Matt Malatesta continued his solid work on the mound, holding the Gyrenes off the board in the first five frames. Anier Ricardo changed that in the sixth, walking and scoring a run to tie the game, but USCB responded right away in the bottom half, as Alexander Humphrey and Daniel Searles added RBI singles to give their squad a 3-1 lead.
The scoring frenzy continued in the seventh, as the Sand Sharks tacked on three more thanks to a Clint Sellers double and Nick Milhan two-run single to take full control at 6-1. Ave Maria tightened the game with a Hayden Sullivan triple, but the visitors couldn’t get any closer.
Sand Shark ace Malatesta was brilliant, throwing six innings and allowing just two hits while picking up nine strikeouts. Castro led the offense with a big day, going 2-for-3 with a solo home run while Milan, Sellers, and Humphrey all collected a pair of hits each.
USCB continued to shine at the plate in game two, taking the lead in the first inning on a Sellers home run and a Kyran Russ run-scoring double before an RBI walk and fielder’s choice made it 4-0. But the Sand Sharks were just getting started. Just one inning later, Castro and Russ delivered back-to-back dingers to push the lead to 6-0.
Both teams traded a run in the fourth inning, and Ave Maria closed the gap with four runs to make it 7-5 going into the seventh-inning stretch. USCB quickly struck back with three straight including a Humphrey home run — the fifth Sand Shark round-tripper of the day — to take a commanding 10-5 advantage. Tucker Perry shut the door in the ninth inning, throwing a 1-2-3 inning to clinch the game and the series.
An incredible four Sand Sharks went yard in game two, as Russ, Sellers, Humphrey, and Castro each picked up a homer. Nick Milhan was 3-for-5 with a triple, and Micah Kreighauser set the tone on the mound, throwing six innings while allowing just one earned run.
The Sand Sharks erupted for nine runs in the third inning of the series finale Saturday as they eyed their second Sun Conference sweep of the season. Castro and Russ came up with an RBI hit each, and Milhan roped a two-run double in a seven-hit frame alongside two Gyrene errors. Daniel Caylor crossed the plate in the fifth to put the visitors on the board, and USCB answered right back with a Castro sacrifice fly in the bottom half to make it a 10-1 ballgame. The Sand Sharks kept the offense rolling in the sixth, adding a pair of runs on a Tavaris Terrell RBI single and a Jack Slavin bases-loaded walk. Blaize Minick then finished off a seven-inning complete game, working a 1-2-3 seventh to give USCB the series sweep over Ave Maria.
Minick was sensational on the mound, allowing just two hits and no earned runs while racking up 10 strikeouts. The freshman righty earned Sun Conference Pitcher of the Week honors for his dominant performance.
Brian Meyer led the way at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a triple. Humphrey and Terrell picked up two hits each, while Milhan went 1-for-2 with a double and a pair of RBIs.
USCB (23-17, 10-11) closes out its home schedule with a doubleheader Tuesday against Edward Waters.
By Wes Kerr