GREENWOOD – Aaron Poole hit a crucial three-run double in the eighth inning of Game 2, carrying the Lander Bearcats to a victory and a Peach Belt Conference baseball double-header split against USC Aiken Saturday afternoon at Dolny Stadium. The Pacers won the opener 9-5 while Lander took the second game 4-2.
Lander is 6-6 overall and 1-4 in the Peach Belt. Aiken is 8-5, 1-4. The teams will complete their PBC three-game series Sunday at 1 o'clock at Dolny Stadium.
Defenses saved runs in the early innings of Game 2 with Lander third baseman Poole making a diving catch of a line drive with two runners on in the second, Aiken left fielder Kody Belcher catching Poole's line drive with two on in the fourth, and Bearcats catcher John Mangum throwing out a runner at the plate on a wild pitch, tossing to pitcher Brandon White to end a bases loaded threat in the fifth.
Lander broke on top with a run in the bottom of the sixth when Zach Giczewski doubled off the top of the right field wall, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Weston Lawing's single up the middle. The Bearcats had runners on second and third with one out, but reliever Joe Marlow replaced Matt Hissong and struck out the next two batters to prevent further damage.
Aiken threatened in the top of the eighth after Belcher reached on a bunt single and raced to third when pitcher Andrew Reardon made an errant pickoff throw. But Reardon fanned Sean Miller for the first out, then Will Jones came from shortstop to the mound and struck out Tyler Moore and retired Ty Barkell on a fly ball to center.
Lander built a 4-0 lead on Poole's three-run double with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Giczewski drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Colby Painter's ground out, Lawing was intentionally walked, Jones drew a two-out walk to load the bases, and Poole laced the first pitch he saw into the right field corner to clear the bases.
But Aiken did not go away quietly with the first three batters reaching in the top of the ninth. TJ Costen and Chaz Pal singled, and Matt Bosse hit an RBI double down the third base line. Jones struck out Zach Moon, but Pal scored on a wild pitch with pinch hitter Randy Lucket at the plate, pulling the Pacers within 4-2. Bosse stayed at third base as Lucket grounded out to second, then Jones struck out Belcher to end the game.
White pitched five shutout innings for Lander, allowing three hits while striking out seven and walking three. Reardon (1-1) added 2.1 innings of shutout relief and was credited with the victory, and Jones allowed two runs on three hits while striking out three in 1.2 innings for his first save of the season.
Pacers starting pitcher Hissong (1-3) took the loss, allowing one run on four hits in 5.1 innings.
Barkell, Costen and Bosse had two hits apiece for Aiken in the second game while Poole paced the Bearcats with three RBI.
Lander took a 1-0 lead in the second inning of Game 1 when Alex Conaway walked, stopped at second on Matt White's single to center, moved to third when Thomas Berry was hit by a pitch, and scored on Lawing's walk.
Aiken took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third as Miller singled, raced to third on Moore's single, and scored on a wild pitch. Moore scored on Barkell's single.
The Pacers increased their lead to 4-1 in the fifth on RBI singles by Belcher and Miller.
Aiken added three runs in the top of the seventh on Moore's two-run single and Barkell's sacrifice fly, making it 7-1.
Lander climbed back into the game with four runs in the bottom of the seventh. Jones walked and moved to third when the Pacers shortstop fielded Colby Lusignan's grounder and threw the ball into the outfield on a force attempt at second. Giczewski's single to right scored Jones and pinch hitter Chris Hyatt followed with a three-run homer over the left field fence, pulling the Bearcats within 7-5. The next two Lander batters also reached as Taylor Kellner and White singled, but Berry hit into an inning-ending double play.
Aiken added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the eighth on Rob Youngblood's two-run double down the left-field line, making it 9-5.
The Bearcats were unable to rally in their final two at-bats, and left 14 runners on base in the game including the bases loaded in both the first and second innings.
Aiken starting pitcher Forrest Koumas, a University of South Carolina transfer who pitched in two College World Series championship games for the Gamecocks, allowed one run on four hits in five innings and was credited with the win. Koumas (1-1) walked five and struck out six while also hitting two batters.
Koumas pitched Game 1 against Florida in 2011 and the opener versus Arizona in 2012 in the CWS in Omaha.
Lander starting pitcher Joe Mackey (1-1) took the loss, allowing six runs, five earned, on eight hits in 6.1 innings.
White led the Bearcats in Game 1, going 4-for-6. Kellner was 2-for-5, and Hyatt 1-for-3 with a three-run homer.
Moore paced Aiken in the opener, going 3-for-4 with two RBI. Youngblood was 2-for-3 with two RBI and Miller 2-for-4 with two runs scored.