GREENWOOD – Connor Lewis homered while Patrick Grady and Colby Painter had three hits apiece, leading the No. 3 Lander Bearcats to a 7-6 victory over 12th ranked Georgia College Sunday afternoon at Dolny Stadium as Lander completed the Peach Belt Conference sweep.
The Bearcats improved to 35-6 overall and 21-6 in the Peach Belt. The Bobcats fell to 26-11, 13-9.
Georgia College took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Clay Ardeeser belted one of Mason McCullough's 95-plus miles per hour fastballs over the wall in right center. McCullough struck out the other three batters in the inning.
Ardeeser struck again in the top of the third with a two-RBI single. Brandon Benson drew a leadoff walk, Ryan Sabalaskey was hit by a pitch, and Rob Hogenkamp bunted the runners to second and third. Ardeeser followed with a line drive single to center, making it 3-0.
Lander pulled within 3-2 in the bottom of the third but had a chance to have a much bigger inning. Erik Lunde led off with a double that rolled to the fence in left center, stole third, and scored on Grady's single to left. Lewis reached on an error and Thomas Berry laid down a bunt single up the third-base line to load the bases. Weston Lawing was hit by a pitch to force home a run and the Bearcats still had the bases loaded and nobody out. But Graham Ramos struck out on a 3-2 pitch, and Painter grounded into a double play.
The Bearcats took their first lead of the game with a two-out rally in the fourth. Lunde singled and scored the tying run on Grady's double into the gap in left center. Lewis followed with his 15th homer of the season, a two-run blast over the right field wall that rolled to the Lander athletics field house. The home run gave Lewis 52 RBI on the season and put Lander on top, 5-3.
The Bobcats pulled within 5-4 with a run in the top of the fifth. With one out, Benson and Sabalaskey drew consecutive walks from McCullough, who was then replaced by reliever Johnny Walker. Walker's first pitch sailed over the catcher's head, moving the runners to second and third. Hogenkamp lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Benson. After Ardeeser was intentionally walked, Lander got out of the inning when first baseman Lewis made a diving stop in the hole and shoveled the ball to Walker covering first for the final out.
Georgia College pulled even in the top of the sixth when Jake Sandlin walked, stole second and scored on Mike McGraw's double, making it 5-all.
Lander regained the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Grady and Lewis led off with singles, and after two fly outs, Ramos beat out an infield single to plate the go-ahead run. Painter followed with an RBI double, giving the Bearcats a 7-5 lead. It was Painter's 49th RBI of the season.
The Bobcats pulled within 7-6 in the top of the seventh when Hogenkamp singled, moved to second on Andreeser's single, the runners then pulled off a double steal, and Daniel Bick hit a sacrifice fly to left. Shortstop Lunde saved the tying run when he dived behind second base to keep Sandlin's hit on the infield, forcing Ardeeser to stop at third.
The Lander bullpen made the lead hold up as Brandon White recorded his ninth save of the season with a scoreless ninth.
McCullough allowed four runs on two hits in 4.1 innings, striking out seven and walking four. Walker (1-0) got the win, allowing one run on three hits in two innings of work, striking out two, walking one and hitting one batter. Kyle Tate allowed two hits in one inning, striking out one. Matt Thorpe threw only one pitch, hitting a batter. Tyler Broome got the final two outs in the eighth, including a diving catch by Lunde. White pitched a scoreless ninth, walking one and striking out two.
Georgia College starting pitcher Josh Taylor allowed five runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings, walking two, striking out three and hitting one batter. Jordan Modine (2-1) took the loss, yielding two runs on five hits in 2.1 frames, striking out two. Jordan Brooks tossed two scoreless innings.
Leading hitters for Lander were Grady, 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBI; Painter, 3-for-4 with an RBI; Lewis, 2-for-4 with a homer, two runs, two stolen bases and two RBI; Lunde, 2-for-4 with two runs; and Berry, 2-for-5.
Ardeeser led Georgia College, going 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI. Sandlin went 2-for-4.