Armstrong Atlantic sweeps USC-Aiken
No. 17 Pirates take doubleheader from third-ranked Pacers
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- No. 17 Armstrong Atlantic State took a pair of games from visiting No. 3 USC-Aiken on Easter Sunday, completing a three-game Peach Belt Conference series sweep of the first-place Pacers. The Pirates withstood a ninth-inning rally to take the opener 12-11, then rode the arm of sophomore Ethan Bader to a 7-3 win in Game 2.
With the wins, the Pirates improved to 27-9 overall and 13-8 in the Peach Belt, while USC-Aiken suffered its first league sweep of the season, falling to 26-11 overall and 15-8 in the league.
Game 1 was an offensive explosion as the teams combined for 23 runs and 37 hits. Armstrong seemingly broke open a 1-0 game in the bottom of the second with a five-run frame, keyed by freshman R.J. Dennard's bases-clearing triple to right and took a 7-1 lead into the sixth.
That's when the Pacers, the top-hitting team in the PBC, roared to life with a six-run sixth inning, sending 11 men to the plate and racking up seven hits in the inning. Tyler Bourdo's two-out, two-RBI single up the middle tied the game at 7-7.
In the bottom of the sixth, Armstrong answered back as senior Drew Walker's bases-clearing three-RBI double to left snapped the tie, and John Roberts added an RBI single to make the score 11-7.
The Pirates added a run in the bottom of the seventh and USC-Aiken answered with a run in the top of the eighth, sending the game into the ninth with Armstrong holding a 12-8 lead.
The first four batters in the inning reached against Armstrong reliever Chess Malone, as pinch hitter Jowan Gray's first hit of the year -- a two-run single inside the third base line -- brought the Pacers to within a run 12-11.
After a fielder's choice and a single by Stephen Carmon -- his fifth hit of the game -- put the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first with just one out, Bader entered the game and struck out Josh Miller and Nick Aranas back-to-back to close out the victory, earning his first save of the season.
Malone (1-1) picked up the win in relief, hurling 2.2 innings of six-hit, four-run ball. USC-Aiken reliever Thomas McLeod took the game one loss in relief, giving up eight hits and five runs -- four earned -- in four innings of work, walking two while striking out three.
Bader picked up where he left off in Game 1, handcuffing the Pacers in a solid eight innings, giving up only three hits and two runs -- one earned -- while walking two and striking out seven to improve to 8-3 on the season.
Armstrong broke open a 2-1 game in the sixth inning with three runs on an RBI single by Cody Powell, a wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk to Alex Frederick. AAS added two more in the seventh on a RBI singles by Mike Barnhill and Casey Maloney.
The Pacers again rallied in the ninth, loading the bases against reliever Travis Morris and bringing the tying run on deck, but Malone came in and retired the final two batters for his first save of the year.
USC-Aiken starter Derek Beasley (6-3) took the loss for the Pacers, giving up eight hits and five runs in 5.2 innings of work, walking one while striking out six.
Dennard led the Pirates offensively in the doubleheader, going 5 for 8 with a double, a triple, three runs scored and five RBI. Maloney also had five hits on the day, going 5 for 9 with three RBI.
Carmon led the Pacers with a 6 for 9 day, while Miller drove in four runs on three hits in the pair of games.