FLORENCE, S.C. – The seventh-seeded Lander baseball team nearly rallied from an early three-run deficit against second-seeded and No. 13-ranked USC Aiken on Wednesday afternoon at the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, but the Bearcats fell just short, dropping a 3-2 decision at Francis Marion University's Sparrow Stadium.
Lander moves to 21-30 on the year, while USC Aiken improves to 39-11 overall. The Bearcats fall into the losers' bracket and will face Flagler in an elimination game Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. All four games between Lander and USC Aiken this season have been decided by one run.
The loss was the first time in program history the Bearcats dropped the opener of a postseason tournament.
USC Aiken took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Jose Bonilla led off with a double to right field. A single from Luke Westerberg put runners on the corners and a sacrifice bunt gave the Pacers two in scoring position. Niles Going then looped a single into centerfield to score Bonilla and a throwing error allowed Westerberg to come home. Brian Parreira then doubled home Goings to put USCA up 3-0.
Lander answered in the top of the second inning when Reed Gray reached after being hit by a pitch with two outs. Bailey Connell followed with a walk and Alec Dowell singled through the right side of the infield to score Gray. The Bearcat inning ended when Connell was thrown out at home on a double steal.
Nathan Schreckengost's 14th home run of the season in the top of the fourth pulled the Bearcats within a run, but Lander could not manage another hit as Connor Riley and Nick Yobbi kept the Bearcats off the board to secure the win.
After a shaky first inning, Bearcat starter Cameron Tekker (5-2) shut out the Pacer offense for seven consecutive innings. Tekker took the loss, going the distance with 8.0 innings pitched. He allowed three runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Tekker limited USCA to three hits over the final seven innings.
Riley (6-2) earned the win, allowing two runs on two hits in 5.2 innings, while walking five and striking out nine. Yobbi did not allow a hit in 3.1 innings of relief to pick up his third save of the season.