By Caleb Bailey, Staff Writer
The Armstrong Pirates baseball team traveled to Dahlonega, Ga for a Peach Belt Conference showdown against the University of North Georgia Nighthawks this past weekend. The three-day trip got started on March 27 as it took some late inning heroics for the Pirates to take the win in Game 1.
Junior Corey Kafka was on the mound for the Pirates the first six innings and allowed three hits and one run with five strikeouts on the day. Junior Jerad Curry scored senior Tyler Avera in the top of the sixth as he reached on a fielder’s choice. The Nighthawks recovered and answered with a run of their own after a Pirate error in the bottom of the same inning.
With the score tied and one man on base for the Pirates in the top of the eighth, junior Berry Aldridge stepped up to the plate to pinch hit for his team. Aldridge cracked a double to left field and brought home Curry for the winning run, making the final score 2-1. He talked about having the opportunity to get the win for his team, but stayed humble in the process.
“It was an awesome moment to be able to come through for my teammates,” Aldridge said. “We had great pitching up to that point and then Caleb Woods and Tyler Graham shut the door to preserve the win.”
Junior Caleb Woods picked up his third win of the year with a 1 and 2/3 innings of work and only allowing one hit. Junior Tyler Graham got his ninth save of the season by closing on the ninth inning with one hit and a strikeout.
Games 2 and 3 did not go so well for the Pirates as North Georgia used an eight-run rally in the seventh inning to secure the victory on Saturday’s game. Sunday’s game was all Nighthawks as they scored in every inning but two to move ahead of the Pirates in the PBC standings by a half game.
The Pirates plated six runs in the fourth, fifth, and seventh innings to take a 6-1 lead. The Pirates scored on an error, a fielder’s choice, RBI singles by both senior RJ Dennard and junior JT Phiilips, and walks in the top of the seventh. The Nighthawks took over in the bottom of the seventh and never looked back.
Steven Tomlinson started the rally with a three-run homer to center field and the Pirates gave the Nighthawks two runs on walks with the bases loaded and a wild pitch. The Nighthawks went up 9-6 as they finished off the game.
Junior Tyler Green took the loss by allowing two hits and two runs without recording an out in the seventh inning.
The Nighthawks rode their momentum into Sunday’s game and opened the game up with a first inning grand slam by Tremayne Toorie. They never looked back as they added on four more runs over the next five innings while only allowing two by the Pirates in the top of the second. Avera talked about what they have to do to bounce back from the series loss.
“We just have to play our game,” Avera said. “No need to press and change things up. We have played well this season. We just couldn’t pull them out this weekend, but that is baseball. It’s a very humbling game and it just shows us what we need to work on this coming week to prepare for this weekend.”
Coach Calvain Culberson expounded on what his senior had to say: “Losses are going to happen. What makes a good team is how you respond after them. We just need to take care of the small details that got us to this weekend.”
With the series loss, the Pirates stand at 24-7 and 13-4 in the PBC, just a half game back of the Nighthawks for first place. The Pirates host an important PBC matchup against the Montevallo Falcons, starting with a doubleheader on April 3.