Conaway's walk-off HR lifts Lander past No. 23 Pacers

Alex Conaway celebrates his walkoff home run in the 10th inning to give Lander a 9-8 win over USC Aiken on Sunday (Photo by Joshua S. Kelly)
Alex Conaway celebrates his walkoff home run in the 10th inning to give Lander a 9-8 win over USC Aiken on Sunday (Photo by Joshua S. Kelly)

GREENWOOD – Lander outfielder Alex Conaway hit a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Bearcats rallied from an 8-1 deficit for a dramatic 9-8 Peach Belt Conference series-clinching win over 23rd ranked USC Aiken Sunday afternoon at Dolny Stadium.

After losing Friday's opener in 10 innings, Lander had a walk-off victory Saturday on a hit by Ryan Troutman in the bottom of the ninth and again Sunday when Conaway homered to left center with one out in the 10th. It was Conaway's third homer of the season for the Aiken, S.C., native.

The Bearcats improved to 14-16 overall, 8-7 in the Peach Belt.

Aiken fell to 21-9, 7-5.

Robbie Hoyt (2-2) was the winning pitcher in relief for the second straight day while James Lynch (1-2) took the loss for the Pacers.

Lander took a 1-0 lead in the third after Mason Dodd delivered a leadoff double and Chuck Lawing was hit by a pitch. The runners moved to second and third on Troutman's grounder and Colton Yeager followed with an RBI single.

The Pacers took a 3-1 lead in the fourth after the first two batters were out. Nile Goings doubled and scored on Luke Westerberg's single. Jonathan Banks singled, Brian Parreira walked to load the bases, and Daulton Weeks hit a two-run single to center.

USC Aiken made it 5-1 in the fifth when Freddie Beamon III doubled and scored on Mitchell Price's two-run homer. It was Price's team-leading ninth homer of the season.

The Pacers added three in the top of the sixth after the first two batters walked. Tyler Ammerman scored on a passed ball, Goings hit a sacrifice fly, and Price scored on a wild pitch for an 8-1 lead. USC Aiken did not have a hit in the inning.

The Bearcats got those three runs back in the bottom of the sixth, pulling within 8-4. Nathan Schreckengost walked, stopped at second as Reed Gray was hit by a pitch, and scored when Bailey Connell's potential double play grounder took a bad hop and got past second baseman Westerberg. Connell was credited with an RBI single. Troutman added a two-run single through the left side.

Lander continued to rally, adding two runs in the seventh. Gray reached on a two-out infield single, moved to second when Connell walked, and scored off Dodd's line single off the right-field wall. With pinch hitter Mike Fitschen at the plate, Dodd broke for second and got in a run-down, Connell raced home and the run counted because Dodd dove back safely into first base.

The Bearcats weren't done. With two out and nobody on again in the eighth, Conaway walked, Carson Jones reached on an infield single to third, and Schreckengost walked to load the bases. Gray followed with a game-tying, two-run single to center.

Leading hitters for Lander were Dodd, 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI; Troutman 2-for-4 with two RBI; Gray 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI; Yeager 2-for-6 with an RBI; and Conaway 1-for-3 with a homer and two runs scored.

Goings and Banks had two hits apiece for the Pacers while Price went 1-for-5 with a homer, two runs and two RBI.