By Caleb Bailey, Staff Writer
The No. 14 nationally ranked Armstrong Pirates baseball team had lost three consecutive games entering into a weekend series against Peach Belt Conference opponent Montevallo. The Pirates ended that losing streak and it began with a pair of wins on April 3.
The Pirates answered a sacrifice fly by the Falcons in the top of the first inning with their own pair of runs thanks to a sacrifice RBI by junior Jerad Cury and a single RBI by junior JT Phillips. The momentum continued to swing from that point until a big eighth inning for the Pirates put the game to bed.
With the game tied at five, junior Kendrick Thompson cracked a double down the right field line to score two runs. That opened up the opportunity for senior Tyler Avera and junior Cody Sherlin to each one and two runs on the board respectively. With a 10-5 lead, junior Tyler Graham shut down the Falcons in the ninth to improve his record to 3-1. Thompson went 3-4 with three RBIs in Game 1.
“We had the lead and Montevallo tied it up, but we kept our composure and came together as a team to win the game,” Thompson said, “The pitchers did a nice job keeping us in the game and Graham did a nice job coming in to close it out.”
The second game was much like the first as the Pirates needed some late-game heroics to notch the win. They jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to a single RBI by Phillips and a two-run double by Avera.
In the third inning, senior RJ Dennard was called out on a controversial collision at the plate. Both teams cleared benches to protect their teammates and after a few minutes of shoving, both Dennard and junior Corey Kafka were ejected along with two players from Montevallo.
The Falcons fought back and tied the game thanks to a two-run double by Vinny Rodriguez and a sacrifice RBI on a bunt by Thomas Bradley. They took the lead thanks to another two-run inning in the seventh.
The Pirates weren’t about to give up, Phillips and fellow junior Berry Aldridge both recorded RBI doubles in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game up. Avera brought home the winning run on a RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth inning that gave his team a 7-6 lead.
Graham again did a good job of keeping the Falcons off the board and recorded his tenth save of the season with a no-hit, two strikeout ninth inning.
Game three did not go so well for the Pirates as they were shutout for the first time this season. The Falcons opened up an 8-0 lead in early thanks to a four-run third inning paired with four runs in the fourth and fifth innings. The scoring stretch was highlighted by two solo home runs in the fifth inning by Collin Dupree and Kale Latorre.
The Falcons managed to salvage a win after the 10-0 victory. One Pirate pitcher talked about how the team needed to keep their heads to complete sweeps.
“Good, hard fought weekend,” junior Corey Kafka, who went six innings with five strikeouts for the Pirates, said. “All of the guys came together the first two games of the series and that allowed us to take two from Montevallo. We need to stay focused a little more throughout the weekend in order to close the door next time.”
With the series win, coupled with a pair of North Georgia losses, the Pirates moved to 26-9 and 15-5 in the PBC and also reclaimed the top spot by a half game.
“We were fortunate to come away with two victories over a very good Montevallo team,” head coach Calvain Culberson said, “We had some timely hitting late in the games that gave us a spark. Our guys battled hard and found a way to win two out of three games.”
The Pirates will host a three game PBC series with rival Flagler starting April 10.