Six runs in 8th and 9th lift Braves
The Bobcats have lost eight conference tourney games in a row
COLUMBUS, Ga. – UNCP erased a two-run deficit with six runs in the eighth and ninth innings to upend 15th-ranked Georgia College 8-4 in the opening game of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
The win marked the sixth consecutive victory for UNCP (39-10), who improved to 2-2 all-time in PBC Tournament play with both wins coming against the Bobcats. Georgia College (35-16) had its three-game winning streak snapped. It was the eighth consecutive loss for the Bobcats in PBC Tournament play.
Keith Whitman homered, drove in two runs and scored four times in a 2-for-4 outing for the Braves who also got multi-hit tallies from three other players. Jason Coker drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth to highlight a 2-for-4 outing, Aaron Parnell doubled and scored on a 2-for-5 day and newcomer J.J. Williams booked a 2-for-5 outing as well.
Shawn Ward drove in two runs on a 3-for-5 day to pace Georgia College who also got a 2-for-5 day from Tanner Funk.
Braxton Lewis (5-0) inherited a 4-2 deficit in the middle of the eighth, but still picked up his fifth win of the season after allowing just a pair of hits in two innings of relief work. Middle reliever Brantley Hattrich struck out two and allowed two hits in three innings of work, but did not get a decision. Reliever Tanner Moore (2-4) was saddled with the loss after surrendering four runs on four hits in just two-thirds of an inning.
UNCP used a one-out single from Coker, a balk from Guinane and an ill-timed fielding error by second baseman Luke McKay to plate an unearned run in the top of the first, but then extended the lead to two runs on a leadoff homer from Whitman in the fourth. The Bobcats would slice their deficit in half in the bottom of the frame, however, utilizing a leadoff triple by Richard Pirkle, as well as a costly throwing error by UNCP starter Brian Willis, to plate their first run of the contest.
The Bobcats kept the momentum going in the bottom of the fifth with three doubles in their first four at-bats to take a 3-2 lead and chase Willis from the mound. Hattrich issued a one-out bases-loaded walk to Travis Echols minutes later to up the advantage to 4-2. The UNCP reliever would escape any more harm by inducing a double play ball from Benton Yaun in the next at-bat.
The Braves would tie the score in the eighth with Parnell's RBI double and a costly two-out wild pitch by Walker McKinven.
UNCP stayed on its roll in the ninth. The Braves sent 10 batters to the plate in a four-run ninth inning. Coker's one-out RBI single brought the eventual winning run across, but the Braves added to their lead moments later on an RBI single from Whitman. UNCP added two more insurance runs by capitalizing on a pair of mistakes by Moore. Kenny Mickens scored after being hit by a pitch with the bases-loaded and Bridgeman drew a full-count, bases-loaded walk.