PEMBROKE — Logan Cook skittered off the mound, pumping his fists and beating his glove after escaping a bases loaded, one-out jam in the seventh inning on Saturday against Flagler.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s emotional front-end weekend starter proved his worth again, sitting down the Saints, 7-2, for his fourth victory in eight starts during the first game of a doubleheader that the Braves swept to improve to 11-6 in the Peach Belt Conference this season.
Cook danced around trouble in multiple frames to scatter three hits over 7 2/3 innings, giving UNCP’s bullpen a much-needed rest after Tuesday’s disappointing loss to St. Augustine’s. Backed by an offensive explosion in the nightcap, Garrett Hickman did just enough despite allowing eight runs to win his fourth straight start, 13-8.
Shortstop Zade Denton hit his first home runs of the season — one in each game — and drove in five runs on the day.
“We definitely played with a chip on our shoulder today,” Cook said. “We didn’t feel too well after losing a game we shouldn’t have (on Tuesday). I just always to come out and compete and the first game of a series is always tough. Both teams are fresh and ready to play.
“If I can keep doing what I’m doing on the mound, hopefully our team will continue to win.”
Cook induced Todd Juliano into a 4-6-3 double play to end the seventh and energize the Braves after Flagler benefited from a questionable call at second base the previous at-bat that would’ve been the second out. The disputed play brought coach Paul O’Neil out of the dugout to plead his case before his sophomore’s well-placed slider ended the threat on the right side of the infield.
“It’s like March Madness … we’re just trying to keep things going,” said O’Neil after his team’s 10th win in their last 12 games. “Logan really threw the ball well today and we had some two-out hitting.”
The Braves (22-7) scored their first run in Game 1 on Denton’s solo blast to left, his first home run of the season that knotted the score at 1. UNCP never trailed again following Cody Trogdon’s two-out, run-scoring soft liner to center a few batters later.
Despite accumulating a double-digit hit total for the 23rd time in 28 games, the Braves were picked off four times in the opening contest and had a few other issues on the base paths that ended threats. More focused in the second game, UNCP pounded out 17 hits and broke it open with five runs on seven hits in a wild third inning.
“Our base-running was atrocious (in Game 1) and we left a few runs out there,” O’Neil said. “That’s something we’re going to have to clean up.
The Braves chased both of Flagler’s starters prior to fifth Saturday, getting to lefty Kyle Bird in the opener with four runs on nine hits before lighting up Matt Wynne for seven earned through one out in the third during the nightcap.
A three-run drive to right in the fifth from Ben Schmucker — who has hit a team-leading seven homers — rounded out the Game 1 scoring for the Braves.
UNCP and Flagler will play the final of a three-game series today at noon.
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
UNCP 7, Flagler 2
Flagler 100100000 —230
UNC Pembroke 02113000x —713 3
WP — Logan Cook (4-1). LP — Kyle Bird (1-3).
Leading hitters — Schmucker 2-3, HR, 3 RBI; Denton 2-3, HR; Trogdon 2-2, RBI.
UNCP 13, Flagler 8
Flagler014012000—8 11 1
UNC Pembroke 035203 00x — 13 17 4
WP — Garrett Hickman (6-1). LP — Matt Wynne.
Leading hitters — Knight 4-5, 4 RBI; Denton 2-4, HR, 4 RBI; Edgerton 3-5.
Records — UNCP 22-7, 11-6; Flagler 15-13, 7-10.