University of Pikeville — Top Sports Stories: Karapandzic's kick lands at No. 1
PIKEVILLE — The most impressive performance in UPIKE athletics last season was no doubt when Damir Karapandzic sent a 42-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give football a 10-7 win at Georgetown and a share of its first Mid-South Conference East Division Championship.
Before the field goal was signaled good, Georgetown had won every prior meeting with the Bears, adding up to 15 in a row. But the defensive slugfest was won with a single kick and at season›s end, both UPIKE and Georgetown claimed a share of the title with identical 5-1 MSC East records.
UPIKE failed to automatically qualify for the NAIA postseason due to not ending the year ranked in the top 20, but it was still a big step for the program which has produced a winning record in MSC play in the past three seasons, all under head coach Allan Holland, Jr. Holland, Jr., enters his fourth season at the helm in 2017, making him the longest tenured coach in program history when the season kicks off on August 24 at Campbellsville.
2017 was the fifth season the Bears had tallied six or more wins in the last 16 years. UPIKE had finished second in in the MSC two other times — in 2004 and 2005.
While Karapandzic provided the heroics, it was a game fought for by the defense which limited then-No. 17 Georgetown to just 111 yards of total offense, the second fewest gained last season. By allowing the Tigers just 42 yards through the air, the Bears broke the program record for passing yards given up in a season at 1,471.
UPIKE tallied 297 yards of offense, including 173 rushing, as it posted a 19-8 advantage in first downs and controlled the ball for 13 more minutes than the Tigers. Willie McCloud led all players with 77 yards rushing — including a long of 46 - while Jamar Kirksey rushed for 71.
Bowen Smith played the bulk of the snaps at quarterback, completing 13-of-25 passes for 111 yards with a touchdown and interception. Braxton Whitmore was Smith's top target with seven catches for 53 yards and Austin Pray collected four catches for 54 yards and a score.
Camron Parsley and Romon Morris each finished with six tackles, followed by Jordan Mattingly and Tanner Fiser with five each. Mattingly registered 2.5 of his tackles for a loss.
It wasn't the regular season the UPIKE baseball team had hoped for at 6-12 in Mid-South Conference play, but that didn't stop it from making noise in the conference tournament opening round.
Earning the No. 6 seed, the Bears traveled to Columbia to face third-seeded Lindsey Wilson, a team it had just swept in the final conference series of the regular season. This time around it would be a best-of-3 series with the winner advancing to the MSC Tournament Final Site in Bowling Green.
UPIKE came up short of that goal in 2016, falling at home to St. Catharine 2-1, but this time around things would be different.
The bats exploded in the opener against the Blue Raiders for a 12-1 win before falling in a back-and-forth battle 11-10 in game two. In the series' finale, the Bears got a complete game, shutout win from Bruce Bell and a home run and three RBIs from Brandon Sewell to win 9-0 and head to Bowling Green.
At the final site, UPIKE lost its opener to top-seeded Campbellsville before holding off Georgetown 13-12 in a wild elimination game that saw the Tigers nearly pull off a ninth-inning comeback with 10 runs. The season eventually came to a close when Campbellsville won 10-7 after scoring eight runs in the first three innings to hold off the Bears.
UPIKE finished the season with a 27-24 record, giving it the most wins since 2001 when Pikeville finished 28-17. Head coach Jim Pitt also finished the year with the most wins in the first two seasons of any coach in program history with 52.
After looking like it would miss the cut to the Intercollegiate Team Championship (ITC) for the first time in program history, the UPIKE women's bowling team saved a 17-year streak and rallied back for a late top-four finish at the Smyrna Sectional.
UPIKE entered the final day of play in fifth place out of 16 teams and eventually fell all the way to ninth. But with four games of 200 or better in the last six, the Bears got themselves to the needed fourth-place finish to qualify for their 17th straight nationals appearance.
Since starting bowling at Pikeville in 2001, the team has qualified for the ITC every season, and after some tense moments in Smyrna, the streak continued under first-year head coach Bobby Brown.
UPIKE captured its fourth-place finish with 11,814 pins, which was 116 better than Marian (Ind.) in fifth place.
The comeback effort mirrored UPIKE's results all season long in which it fell behind early only to comeback for nine tournament titles.
— Submitted for publication by the University of Pikeville. The #UPIKETop10 campaign can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @UPIKEAthletics.