No. 24 Braves Drop Series To No. 7 USC Aiken
PEMBROKE – Seventh-ranked USC Aiken broke open a close game with eight runs in the final four innings to clinch both its series with No. 24 UNCP, as well as at least a share of the Peach Belt regular season title, with a 13-4 win over the Braves in the nightcap of a series-closing doubleheader on Saturday at Sammy Cox Field.
Derek Funk drove in a run and scored twice, highlight a 2-for-4 outing by belting the school record-breaking 68th home run of the season for UNCP (36-16, 13-13 PBC). Jason Coker plated a pair of runs on 1-for-3 outing for the Braves as well.
Ken Raborn doubled twice and drove in a pair of runs on a 3-for-6 hitting line for USC Aiken (37-15, 18-9) who also got a 4-for-5 plate performance from leadoff hitter Cody McMorris. Three other Pacers tallied a pair of hits as well. The Pacers clinched at least a share of the PBC title with the result. Idle Georgia College can share the crown with the Pacers with a series sweep of Augusta State next weekend at home.
UNCP starter Jonathan Rivera (6-2) yielded five runs (three earned) and nine hits to saddle his first loss in more than a month (March 22) for the Braves, while Clayton Knight (4-3) struck out eight and scattered six hits over his first complete game of the season.
The Braves utilized two hits and a pair of errors to plate three runs in the bottom of the first, but the Pacers answered back with three of their own in the second, and then took advantage of two UNCP errors and a trio of hits in the third to score two runs and take a lead they would not relinquish.
The Braves climbed to within one, 5-4, on Funk’s solo shot in the bottom of the third and the teams embraced in a dogfight for the next two innings before the Pacers plated three in the sixth to put the game away.
The Braves will now play the waiting game to learn of their seeding for the 2009 PBC Tournament, May 9-10, at USC Aiken’s Roberto Hernandez Stadium. The Braves, currently fifth in the latest standings, have a 2-game lead on sixth place Armstrong Atlantic. The Pirates will finish out their home series with Augusta State on Sunday and will travel to Greenwood, S.C., next weekend for a league set with Lander.