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N.C. Wesleyan rallies for USA South golf title

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From staff reports

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The N.C. Wesleyan men's golf team overcame an 11-stroke deficit in Saturday's final round to post a 2-stroke win and capture the program's first USA South Championship in 45 years on Saturday at the par-72 Highland Country Club in LaGrange. The Bishops carded a team round of 293 to overtake both Methodist University and Huntington College down the stretch, while junior Grady Anderson posted a final round 73 to finish the tourney at 2-under and earn medalist honors.

“We knew it was history,” N.C. Wesleyan coach Gregg Ripke said. “I told the guys, ‘You can be a part of history or not. It’s up to you. Nobody thinks we can win.’ 

Ripke said the Bishops had a team meeting after Friday’s round and watched the school’s baseball team rally from a ninth-inning deficit to extend their tournament. 

“I told them we had to do the same thing,” Ripke said. “We had to take it one shot at a time. It all worked out. We came from nowhere.”

Thursday's opening round saw the Bishops turn in a 294 team score, which placed them five strokes off the Monarchs' lead in second place. Anderson's 68 (-4) led the 45-man field, while freshman Juan de Giacomi's 72 (E) placed him in the top-10 heading to day two.

Friday's second round later saw Methodist, ranked 3rd nationally, extend its lead to 11 strokes over the Bishops. With a day two team round of 297, the Hawks of Huntingdon College jumped NCWC in the team standings and entered round three just four strokes back. Individually, Anderson's day two 73 left him at 3-under for the tourney and clinging to a 2-stroke lead over Greensboro's Scott Campbell.

On Saturday, the Bishops got a total team effort to erase the deficit, led by de Giacomi's low round of 69 (-3). The freshman's day three push left him tied for 2nd-place overall with a three-day total of 216 -- just two strokes behind teammate Anderson, who's three-day 214 garnered top individual honors. Anderson and de Giacomi, in fact, posted the only two sub-70 round of the event. Sophomore Mariano Silvestri also came through with a tourney-best 73 on the final day to finish at 226 (+16), which tied for 16th overall. Sophomore Luke Thornton became the third Bishop to save his best for last with an individual-best 78 that completed Wesleyan's round. Senior David White carded rounds of 79, 83, and 80 to round out the Bishops' scorers.

Methodist finished two strokes off Wesleyan's pace with a three-day team total of 894, while Huntingdon finished third at 896.

The tournament win is Wesleyan's third of the season and marks the first conference championship since NCWC won four consecutive titles from 1970 to 1973. In his eighth year at the helm of the program, head coach Gregg Ripke also becomes the only coach other than the late Don Scalf to lead his team to the title.

The Bishops, who are currently ranked 17th-nationally, will now begin preparations for NCAA play.

Baseball

N.C. Wesleyan’s run to the championship series of the USA South Baseball Tournament came to an end Saturday with a 12-7 loss to LaGrange.

The Bishops, playing their fifth game in four days, ran out of the necessary starting pitching that had bought them from a No. 7 seed to within a pair of victories from reaching the NCAA Tournament.

LaGrange limited Bishops starter Nate Gardner to a rare short outing. Gardner lasted just three innings and gave up nine runs (six earned).

LaGrange, which went unbeaten in the tournament and would have had to lose twice to N.C. Wesleyan on Saturday, finished with 17 hits and had big innings in the first, second and fourth.

N.C. Wesleyan (22-23) won its first two games of the tournament before losing to LaGrange on Friday, 12-3.

The Bishops then played in an elimination game and defeated Piedmont, 9-6, in 10 innings.

Coach Charlie Long’s squad will remember the season for its shifts in winning and losing streaks. The Bishops had a five-game skid entering the tournament before earning a spot in the championship series.

Women’s Tennis

The Battling Bishops are headed to the championship match.

A 5-4 victory on Saturday against Piedmont came down to the final match.

N.C. Wesleyan (11-3) will play Methodist today in the title match today.

Men’s Tennis

For the second time in a week, N.C. Wesleyan defeated Averett, 9-0.

The Bishops will play Methodist today for the league title.

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