No. 17 Armstrong sweeps No. 9 Lander baseball
GREENWOOD – After Armstrong Atlantic State's bullpen struggled Saturday night, the 17th-ranked Pirates rode starting pitchers Scott Strickland and Evan Bader Sunday and swept a Peach Belt Conference double-header from the No. 9 Lander Bearcats 11-8 and 7-3 at Stephen Dolny Stadium.
Strickland went the distance in Game 1, and Bader pitched eight effective innings in the nightcap before being relieved in the ninth by Chess Malone as Armstrong improved to 23-9 overall and 10-8 in the PBC.
Lander fell to 25-10 overall and 12-6 in the conference. The Bearcats had won the opener 9-6 Saturday night in a game delayed three hours by the weather, when Lander's bullpen threw eight shutout innings while Armstrong's bullpen failed to hold a 6-0 lead.
But the Pirates won the series Sunday with the sweep on the strength of their starting pitchers, timely hitting, and a key defensive play by second baseman Mike Barnhill in the seventh inning of Game 2.
Casey Maloney was the Pirates' leading hitter in Sunday's double-header, going 5-for-10 with four runs scored.
The Bearcats' leading batter in the double-header was AJ Nunziato, who went 4-for-9 with two doubles.
Armstrong pulled within 3-2 in the third on two walks, a passed ball, an errant run-down pickoff throw that scored a run, and R.J. Dennard's RBI double.
The Pirates scored five runs in the fourth, taking a 7-3 lead. Clayton Miller started the rally with a single and Drew Walker followed with a two-run home run over the right-field wall, his second homer of the season. Zach Taylor had an RBI single, Alex Frederick's sacrifice bunt plated a run, and John Roberts added a run-scoring single.
But Lander stormed back to tie with four runs in the bottom of the fourth on May's RBI single, Tisdale's two-run double, and Nunziato's run-scoring double.
Tisdale and Nunziato struck again in the sixth to give the Bearcats the lead. Tisdale doubled to deep right and scored on Nunziato's double to the fence in left center, giving Lander an 8-7 advantage.
But the Pirates scored four in the top of the seventh to regain the lead again, 11-7. Barnhill, Maloney and Frederick hit RBI singles and Armstrong starting pitcher Strickland (6-1) made the lead stand up.
Strickland pitched a complete game, allowing eight runs, seven earned, on 10 hits. He struck out seven and walked three, throwing approximately 150 pitches.
Leading hitters in Game 1 for Armstrong were Barnhill, 2-for-3 with three runs; Miller, 2-for-4 with two runs; and Maloney, 2-for-5 with two runs.
Patrick Grady, Lander's third pitcher, took the loss. He fell to 1-3 on the season. Grady allowed four runs on three hits in 2.1 innings, striking out three and walking two. Bearcats starter Brandon Miller gave up seven runs, six earned, on six hits and six walks in 3.2 innings. He struck out three.
Leading hitters for Lander in Game 1 were Tisdale, 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBI; Nunziato, 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI; May, 2-for-2 with an RBI; and Harvey, 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Armstrong took a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 2 on Dennard's two-run single. The Pirates added a run in the second on Barnhill's RBI ground out, scoring Walker.
Armstrong went up 4-0 in the third on Taylor's leadoff double and Cody Powell's RBI double.
The Pirates continued to tack on runs, adding another in the fifth when Maloney singled, stopped at second when Taylor walked, stole third, and scored on Frederick's ground out to shortstop.
Lander climbed back into Game 2 with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Tisdale drew a one-out walk, moved to second on Erik Lunde's single up the middle, and scored on Nunziato's single to right. Nunziato stole second, and Owens hit a two-out, two-run single to give him six RBI in the series.
After a 35-minute delay because lightning was detected in the area when the Bearcats were batting in the bottom of the sixth, Armstrong added another run in the seventh for a 6-3 lead. Barnhill singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Frederick's sacrifice fly to deep center.
The Pirates made a huge defensive play in the bottom of the seventh when Lunde drew a leadoff walk and was doubled off first when second baseman Barnhill made a jumping catch of Nunziato's line drive. Lander put two more batters on, but Kevin Childs lined to deep center to end the inning.
The Pirates added another run in the eighth when Powell singled, moved to second on Walker's bunt, and scored on a single by Roberts to make it 7-3.
Bader (7-3) allowed three runs on five hits in eight innings of work, walking seven and striking out nine. Malone tossed a hitless ninth, walking one and striking out one.
Ross Davis (1-2) took the loss in his second start of the season for Lander, allowing six runs, five earned, on six hits in 6.1 innings. He walked three and struck out four. Scott Elitzky, Chris Thomas and Todd Hughson finished the game.
Maloney was 3-for-5 with two runs scored to pace Armstrong's Game 2 attack while Powell went 2-for-4. Frederick and Dennard had two RBI apiece.
Nunziato paced the Bearcats in Game 2, going 2-for-5 with a double and stolen base.