Tirae Stevens, Staff Writer
The Armstrong State University baseball team faced stiff competition in the form of the USC Aiken Pacers during the weekend of March 3-5. The Pirates and the Pacers engaged in a three-game series in what would be the start of Peach Belt Conference (PBC) play for Armstrong State.
The first game took place on Friday, March 3. The Pacers, ranked number one in the Peach Belt Conference and number nine in the nation for Division 2 baseball, opened the game with three home runs to take an early 4-0 lead in the first inning. Solid pitching and defensive effort from the Pacers kept the Pirates from getting on the scoreboard until the seventh inning, while the Pacers added a run in the third inning and additional runs in the sixth and seventh innings. The Pirates finally managed to get a run of their own by drawing four straight walks in the seventh inning. But a grand slam home run at the hands of senior Ryan Patterson- his second of the season- gave life to the Pirates, allowing them to come within two runs with a score of 7-5. Junior Will Browning used a two-run home run in the eighth inning to tie the game up at 7-all. However, USC Aiken regained the lead with two runs in the ninth inning, and Pacer pitcher Mitch Spence struck out three straight batters to preserve the 9-7 win for Aiken.
The two teams met again the next day, but this time Armstrong was the first to score thanks to an RBI single by junior Chandler Corley in the bottom of the third inning. But the bats came alive for USC Aiken during the fourth inning as Pacer Nile Goings launched a three-run home run to make the score 3-1 in favor of the Pacers. Pacer Zach Moon contributed a solo home run in the sixth inning, but Pirate junior Caleb Slaughter took advantage of a downed Pacer outfielder to tally an inside-the-park homerun to put the Pirates within two runs, 4-2. The Pacers used the ninth inning to extend their lead by three runs, and the Pirates couldn’t catch up as they eventually fell to USC Aiken with a score of 7-2.
The final meeting between the Pirates and the Pacers came on Sunday, March 5. Once again, Armstrong was the first to get on the board by scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning but wouldn’t score again until the eighth inning, while the Pacers amassed a total of six runs between the sixth and eighth innings. By the bottom of the ninth inning, the score was 9-4 in favor of the Pacers, but the Pirates managed to draw five walks while the bases were loaded to pull within three runs. Freshman Will Hodges sent off what would have been a game-winning grand slam home run, but commendable effort by Pacer Mitchell Price kept the ball in the park and reduced the play to a three-run double- forcing extra innings. An RBI double by Pacer Charles Padilla, followed by a two-run single by Pacer Daulton Weeks, solidified the 12-9 victory for USC Aiken.
With the three losses, the Pirates fall to 13-6 overall and 0-3 in the conference. “Each weekend is a new challenge and we have to prepare for what it brings,” Head coach Calvain Culberson said “We will go back to work this week and focus on some adjustments and prepare to win the series that is in front of us.”
The Pirates traveled to Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, March 8 to take on Morehouse College. They will return to action on Saturday, March 11 with a trip to Dahlonega, Georgia to face the North Georgia Nighthawks.