AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Lander baseball team emerged on the losing end of a 10-inning slugfest on Friday afternoon, dropping the first game of an absolutely critical Peach Belt Conference series with Augusta by a score of 16-15 at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Lander falls to 19-26 overall and 10-12 in PBC play with the loss, while the Jaguars improved to 18-23, (9-13). The two teams will conclude the series on Saturday afternoon at Roberto Hernandez Stadium in Aiken, S.C., with a doubleheader beginning at 3:00 p.m.
Alec Dowell continued his brilliant performance at the plate in the 10th frame, picking up his third RBI of the afternoon on a solo homer to left field, which gave Lander a 15-14 lead and another opportunity to secure the win.
Augusta had other plans though, with Carrington Evans stroking a leadoff double off Bearcats' reliever Joseph Whitt (3-3) to put the tying run in scoring position. Cole Janousek moved Evans over to third on a grounder to second base, but Evans was then tagged out on a grounder by Jake Bogosian and Lander was a single out away from earning the victory.
Davis Murray kept the contest going with a single, advancing pinch-runner Adam Spurlin to second, and Jim Wagner drove in Spurlin with a single up the middle to even the score. Tripper Ergle was then called upon to record the final out for Lander, but Cody Lanford laced a walk-off single to drive in pinch-runner Colin Dominy and take the first game of the series.
Augusta claimed its first lead of the day in the eighth, taking a 13-10 advantage after exploding for five runs on five hits. Brent Alford notched the first run of the inning as he tagged up on a sacrifice fly by Clint Hardy and Jamal Cummings plated Wagner on an infield single. Evans then drove in Tyler Roberts on a single to right before Cole Janousek ripped a triple down the right field line to plate Evans and Cummings.
With their backs against the wall, the Bearcats' bats came through in the clutch as Lander scored four runs in the top of the ninth to take a 14-13 advantage. Reed Gray was hit by a pitch to start the incredible rally, with Mason Dodd moving him over to third on a double to right field. Gray then scored on a wild pitch, which advanced Dodd to third. Colton Yeager then cut the Bearcats' deficit to a single run, grounding out to shortstop to drive in Dodd. Alex Conaway drew a crucial two-out walk to keep Lander's hopes alive, setting the stage for Nathan Schreckengost to blast a two-run shot to right field to reclaim the lead.
The Bearcats' bullpen couldn't shut the door on the Jaguars, however, as Roberts hit a sacrifice fly to right field, driving in Will Zimmer and sending the game into extra innings.
Dowell recorded three hits, two runs and upped his RBI total to 19 to pace the Lander attack, while Yeager, Schreckengost, Conaway and Gray each drove in two runs during the contest.
Despite being in position to take the loss after giving up a long ball to Dowell, Jaguars' reliever Casey Lenoch (4-2) was credited with the win after an inning on the mound.
The Lander offense was on fire from the start as they scored three runs on three hits in the very first frame, jumping out to an early lead before the Jaguars even took a swing. Yeager got the rally going with a leadoff single to center field and advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt by Augusta starter Tristan Jones.
Schreckengost then drew a walk, moving over to second when Dowell sprayed an RBI single through the left side of the infield to plate Yeager. Lander was able to load the bases when Carson Jones got hit by a pitch with two outs and Gray took advantage, driving in Schreckengost and Dowell on a double to left field to give the Bearcats a 3-0 lead.
The Jaguars cut into their deficit in the bottom of the first, with Lanford scoring an unearned run on a ground-out by Roberts to trim Lander's advantage down to two runs.
Lander appeared to take firm control of the contest in the fourth inning, plating five runs on four hits to extend its lead to 8-1. Ryan Troutman knocked in Gray with a single to left, while Dodd came around to score on a double by Yeager. Conaway then launched a double to right field, plating both Yeager and Troutman to chase Jones from the contest. Conaway later scored on a wild pitch by Jaguars' reliever Cody Pugh.
It didn't take Augusta long to respond, however, as the Jaguars came roaring back with six runs on four hits in the bottom of the fifth. Wagner drove in Bogosian with a single to left and Alford came around to score on an RBI single by Lanford. Augusta received some help from the visitors when Bearcats' starter Sam Linn committed a throwing error trying to go home on a ground ball by Hardy, resulting in two unearned runs. The Jaguars tallied two more unearned runs before reliever Robbie Hoyt got Lander out of the inning, ultimately trimming the Bearcats' advantage to 8-7.
Lander promptly answered with two runs in the sixth as Bailey Connell and Dowell each picked up an RBI in the frame. Connell drove in Conaway on a sacrifice fly to right field, while Schreckengost scampered home from second on a single by Dowell.
The Jaguars added another unearned run in the bottom of the sixth, trimming their deficit to 10-8 as Roberts singled up the middle to drive in Lanford.
Linn allowed seven runs, only two of which were earned, over 4.1 innings of work and struck out two. Hoyt gave up two earned runs, three total, through 2.2 innings, while Marshall Thompson surrendered four earned runs on five hits during an inning on the mound.