COLUMBUS, Ga. - The No. 13-ranked and second-seeded Lander baseball team used a three-hit pitching performance by starting pitcher JD Waite Sunday afternoon to defeat No. 19 and fourth-seeded USC Aiken, 3-0, and earn a spot in Monday's noon championship game of the NCAA Division II Southeast Region Tournament hosted by Columbus State University at Burger King Field.
Lander, which improves to 41-14, downed the Pacers (39-17) for the first time in five tries this season. The Bearcats, who won the regional title in 2014 for the first time in school history, learned late Sunday they would meet USCA again in the championship after the Pacers defeated Tusculum, 8-2, in Sunday's final game.
The tournament winner will join seven other regional champions in the NCAA Division II College World Series, May 28-June 4, in Cary, N.C. The Bearcats can punch their ticket to Cary by winning the first game on Monday, but a second game will be played if necessary.
Waite improved to 5-2 on the season after striking out five, walking two and allowing just three hits in seven complete shutout innings. Three times he put the Pacers down in order. Relief pitcher Robbie Hoyt struck out one and walked one in the eighth inning, then closer Brandon White picked up his 12th save of the year with two strikeouts in the ninth.
The Pacers' James Lynch (4-3) took the loss, striking out eight, walking two and allowing three earned runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings.
Lander wasted no time getting on the scoreboard and posting a 2-0 lead after Matt White scored on Thomas Berry's sacrifice fly in the first, followed by Will Jones' RBI single that plated Taylor Kellner in the second. The Bearcats scored their final run in the seventh when Berry's second sacrifice fly sent White home again.
In mid-February, the Pacers swept Lander in their regular-season series, 8-2, 18-17, and 8-4, in Aiken, then downed the Bearcats, 7-4, in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament pool play.