Jones helps No. 22 Lander salvage split with Patriots

Will Jones rounds third after hitting a home run against Francis Marion on Saturday. Congratulating Jones is third base coach Britt Johnson. (Photo by Dylan Seely)
Will Jones rounds third after hitting a home run against Francis Marion on Saturday. Congratulating Jones is third base coach Britt Johnson. (Photo by Dylan Seely)

GREENWOOD – Will Jones hit two home runs including the go-ahead blast in the seventh inning of Game 2 as the 22nd ranked Lander Bearcats salvaged a Peach Belt Conference double-header split against Francis Marion Saturday at Dolny Stadium. The Patriots rallied to win the opener 3-2 while Lander took the nightcap 13-8.

Lander is 26-8 overall and 15-6 in the Peach Belt.

Francis Marion, which won the three-game series including an 11-inning victory on Friday, is 19-12, 7-8.

Jones was 5-for-9 with two homers and six RBI in the two games for the Bearcats while teammate Colby Lusignan was 6-for-8 and reached base eight times in the double-header including being hit by pitch twice.

The Patriots took a 1-0 lead in the second inning of Game 1 when Casey Clauss singled, moved to second on Logan Koch's bunt, and scored on Antonio Pino's double to right center.

Lander took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Jones hit a leadoff homer over the left-field fence and Mason Dodd drew a bases loaded walk.

Francis Marion regained the lead in the top of the ninth off the Bearcats bullpen. Koch hit a leadoff single, Pino dropped a bunt down the first base line that Lander hoped would roll foul but would not for a single, Cole Hinnant bunted the runners to second and third, and Chase Haas drilled a two-run single past shortstop giving the Patriots a 3-2 lead.

Zach Daly's two-out single in the bottom of the ninth put the tying run on base for the Bearcats. But Lusignan flied out to center to end the game.

Both starting pitchers were excellent in Game 1.

Francis Marion's Matt Kelley (4-2) earned the win, allowing two runs on six hits in eight innings. He struck out eight and walked two. Chance DuCharme retired the first two batters in the ninth before allowing Daly's hit. Brandon Cook retired the last batter for his first save of the season.

Lander's JD Waite gave up just one run on seven hits in eight innings. He struck out three and walked two. Tripp Ergle (0-1) took the loss, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs in the ninth. Robbie Hoyt got the final two outs in the ninth.

The leading hitters for the Bearcats in the opener were Lusignan and Jones with two hits apiece. Lusignan reached base four times, twice being hit by a pitch.

Pino and Haas had two hits apiece to pace Francis Marion in Game 1.

The Patriots took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning of Game 2, taking advantage of four walks. William Robbins had an RBI single and Zach Callahan added a sacrifice fly.

Lander tied the game at 2-all in the bottom of the second when Alex Conaway walked, Dodd reached on an error, and Jones hit a two-run double into the left-field corner.

The Bearcats had runners on second and third with nobody out in the bottom of the third on singles by Lusignan and Thomas Berry, and a wild pitch, when the game was delayed 91 minutes by rain.

After the game resumed at 8:07 p.m., John Mangum walked to load the bases and Taylor Kellner was awarded first on catcher's interference giving Lander a 3-2 lead. Conaway reached on a fielder's choice to score Berry, and the Bearcats added another run on an errant pickoff attempt. Jones followed with an RBI single, making it 6-2.

Andrew Reardon was the starting pitcher for Lander but was removed in favor of Harper Grier after the rain delay. Reardon allowed two runs on two hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

Francis Marion rallied in the top of the fifth, collecting three hits and a walk off Grier who was hurt trying to field Clauss's RBI infield single that pulled the visitors within 6-3. Robbins followed with a two-run double off reliever Praise Thorsen to cut the Patriots deficit to 6-5. Lander's third pitcher of the inning, Joseph Whitt, entered with the bases loaded and one out and retired the next two batters escaping further damage.

Francis Marion took an 8-6 lead in the top of the sixth on Kennedy's leadoff homer and RBI singles by Clauss and Robbins.

Lander tied the game at 8-all in the bottom of the sixth on Lusignan's RBI single and Berry's sacrifice fly.

The Bearcats regained a 10-8 lead in the bottom of the seventh when Conaway hit a leadoff double, moved to third on Dodd's bunt and scored on a two-run homer by Jones, his second of the day and third of the season. The homer easily cleared the left-field fence.

Lander added three runs in the eighth on a wild pitch, Conaway's run-scoring ground out, and Dodd's RBI single making it 13-8.

Colton Rogers (4-1), Lander's fifth pitcher, collected the win with 3.2 innings of shutout relief.

Daniel Barfield (0-1) took the loss for the Patriots.

Leading hitters for the Bearcats in Game 2 were Lusignan, 4-for-5 with two doubles; Jones, 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBI, and Berry, 3-for-3. Conaway was 1-for-4 with a double, two RBI, and three runs scored.

Top hitters for Francis Marion in the second game were Robbins, 3-for-5 with four RBI; Clauss, 3-for-3 with two RBI; and Kennedy, 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored.