GREENWOOD – The nationally-ranked Lander Bearcats rallied for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat Peach Belt Conference rival UNC Pembroke 14-12 Saturday at Dolny Stadium.
Lander, which is No. 10 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll and No. 11 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's rankings, improved to 34-11 overall and 21-8 in the PBC.
UNCP dropped to 24-17, 10-13.
The Bearcats already won the series and will face the Braves in Game 3 Sunday at 1 o'clock at Dolny Stadium.
Lander is in a tight battle for the Peach Belt regular season title. USC Aiken is 19-8 in the league, Columbus State is 17-6, and Augusta University 16-7. While the Bearcats will play their final Peach Belt regular season game Sunday, the other three contenders all have a series left leaving the championship to be decided next weekend. Augusta will play Pembroke next weekend, Aiken faces Flagler, and Columbus takes on Armstrong State.
Lander had six players produce two or more hits Saturday. There were 32 hits in the game, 17 by Pembroke, 15 from the Bearcats.
The Braves grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Roberto Rivera singled, scampered to second on a passed ball, moved to third on Nick Salisbury's ground out, and scored on Stibel Aleman Saba's single.
Lander took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first with two hits and a pair of walks. Zach Daly walked, raced to third on Colby Lusignan's single to right and scored on a wild pitch on ball four to John Mangum. Taylor Kellner followed with an RBI single.
UNC Pembroke tied the game at 2-all in the top of the second when Justin Dattilo walked, stopped at second on Hayden Buffkin's single, moved to third when Rivera was hit by a pitch, and scored when Salisbury was also hit by a pitch.
The Bearcats exploded for five runs in the bottom of the second, taking a 7-2 lead. Ryan Troutman was hit by a pitch, Matt White lined a single past second, and Daly moved both runners up with a bunt. Lusignan lined a two-run double to right, stopped at third on Thomas Berry's single, and scored on Kellner's infield single. After Alex Conaway reached on an error to load the bases, Mason Dodd drilled a two-run single.
Rivera and Salisbury had RBI singles, pulling the Braves within 7-4 in the top of the fourth. Kellner's diving catch in short right center saved further damage.
Buffkin and Rivera had RBI singles as Pembroke closed within 7-6 in the top of the fifth.
Lander took an 8-6 lead in the bottom of the fifth when White singled, stole second, moved to third on a throwing error by the catcher and scored on Berry's single.
The Braves regained a 9-8 lead with three unearned runs in the top of the sixth. Nick Debo, who reached on a two-out error, advanced to second and third on wild pitches and scored on a passed ball. After Dattilo was hit by a pitch, Christian Snider belted a game-tying pinch hit double. Buffkin put Pembroke on top with a single that scored Snider.
The Bearcats tied the game at 9-all in the bottom of the sixth when Kellner reached on an error, moved to second on Conaway's single, to third on Dodd's ground out, and scored when White reached on a fielder's choice.
Pembroke took a 12-9 lead with three two-out runs in the top of the eighth. Salisbury drew a bases-loaded walk and Aleman Saba belted a two-run single.
But Lander responded with five runs in the bottom of the eighth, regaining a 14-12 lead. Conaway started the inning with a homer, his first of the season, over the left-field fence. Dodd doubled to left center, Will Jones reached on an error, and White and Daly followed with RBI singles to tie the game at 12. Mangum and Conaway drew bases-loaded walks to give the Bearcats the lead.
Kyle Ramsey (0-3) took the loss for Pembroke.
Leading hitters for the Bearcats were White, 3-for-6 with three runs scored and two RBI; Berry, 3-for-4; Conaway, 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI; Lusignan, 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI; Kellner, 2-for-6 with two runs and two RBI; and Dodd, 2-for-6 with two RBI.
Rivera and Buffkin had three hits apiece for the Braves while Aleman Saba, Dattilo and Snider had two hits apiece. Salisbury and Aleman Saba had three RBI apiece while Rivera and Buffkin had two runs and two RBI apiece.