MORRISTOWN, TN – Landon Slemp and Brayden Matthews combined to give up just two runs on seven hits over 11.1 innings on Thursday as No. 2 Walters State swept a doubleheader from WVU Potomac State, 2-1 and 6-1.
With the wins, Walters State improved to 25-4 on the season.
GAME ONE: No. 2 Walters State 2, WVU Potomac State 1
In game one, Slemp got the ball and mowed down the WVU Potomac State lineup through 5.1 innings. Potomac State got one run, on a solo homer, but that was all as Slemp allowed just three hits and struck out six.
“I really had the breaking ball going for me today,” Slemp said. “That was my best pitch, my fastball was a little inconsistent at times. I just had to focus in on the zone.”
Including Thursday’s start, Slemp has found a groove over the past two weeks. Last week, Slemp through six innings and struck out 10 in a win over USC Union.
“I’m just focused on throwing strikes and doing my job,” Slemp said. “I’m not necessarily focusing on my velo right now but on throwing strikes and getting my breaking ball in there. Just trying to do my job.”
Despite the outing, Slemp was in line to get the loss as WVU Potomac State’s starter Alexander Meckley allowed just one hit and struck out 12 in five innings.
However, down a run in the seventh, the Senators got a walk to Kurtis Reid with one out. Reid would then score to tie the game as Kruise Newman doubled him in. Newman advanced to third on a groundout by Will Cawthon before a wild pitch scored him to win the game.
For Slemp, being in a pitchers battle like that is always enjoyable and motivates him to step his game up on the mound.
“It’s fun, it’s like I don’t want him to beat me first,” Slemp said. “It just gives me more adrenaline to go out there and compete against a really good arm.”
Replacing Slemp on the mound with an out in the sixth and runners on second and third was Karson Bonaparte. Bonaparte got a pop up and line out to escape the jam and then pitched a scoreless seventh to keep it a one-run game. Bonaparte improved to 2-0 with the win.
At the plate, Walters State had two hits. Newman’s double in the seventh was one of them with a single by Cole McCallum in he first being the other.
GAME TWO: No. 2 Walters State 6, WVU Potomac State 1
Game two started slow offensively as the two teams were tied at one through four innings. However, the Senators got two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth to secure the win.
Matthews got the start on the mound for the Senators and threw six innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out four.
“The ball was rolling off the fingers really well today,” Matthews said. “I was struggling a little with control, but as long as we get in under 15 pitches (an inning) and get out of there quick and get the boys back in the dugout, that’s what my job is.”
The win moved Matthews to 3-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to right around three. Matthews has now thrown 11 innings in the last six days, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out 11.
“My mindset on the mound really is to make the batter want to quit baseball,” Matthews said. “Honestly, that’s what I go out there thinking. I just try and go out there and have fun and do my job.”
Matthews was replaced in the seventh inning by Taz Butler, who pitched a scoreless inning while striking out one.
At the plate, the Senators offense picked up with nine hits. Kurtis Reid was the hot bat in the lineup, going 3-4 with a triple and home run. He drove in two runs.
Along with Reid, Corbin Shaw also homered while Deniel Ortiz and Newman each doubled.
It was Walters State who got on the board first in game two as Caleb Marmo grounded out but scored Keaton Ray.
WVU Potomac State tied the game in the third, but the Senators got the lead back in the fifth as Shaw and Reid went back-to-back to make it 3-1.
“It’s always nice seeing those guys hit the long ball,” Matthews said. “It’s always a nice feeling getting some insurance and getting those runs in. It makes it a lot easier on the mound and stress free.”
In the sixth, Walters State added three more runs as a passed ball scored Marmo, Reid singled in a run and then a double steal scored Shaw.
Walters State will be back in action on Saturday for their first home conference series of the season. The Senators will play Jackson State with Saturday’s doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. The final game of the series is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“We just need to focus on getting that third game in,” Matthews said. “Our goal is to sweep, not to go 2-1 or 1-2. That’s really the goal and what we are going to be focused on.”
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