No. 7 Braves Hold Off USC Aiken, Take Series
PEMBROKE – UNCP took its first lead of the game on a RBI single by Eitan Maoz in the bottom of the fifth inning and held off a late charge by visiting USC Aiken down the stretch as the seventh-ranked Braves delivered a series-clinching 5-4 win over the Pacers on Sunday afternoon at Sammy Cox Field.
The win marked the third league series win of the season for the Braves (23-4, 7-4 PBC) who have now won eight of their last nine outings to stay in the mix of things in the Peach Belt Conference standings. The setback marked the ninth loss in the last 12 outings for USC Aiken (15-11, 2-7) who has now dropped five of its last six PBC outings as well.
UNCP got two hits apiece from three different players on the day, including Jason Coker who walked, doubled and homered to earmark a 2-for-3 day at the plate. Brad Bridgeman scored a pair of runs on a 2-for-3 hitting line, with Maoz driving in a run on a 2-for-4 outing.
The Pacers got six hits from the first five batters in its lineup, but just three from the remaining four hitters. Tyler Bourdo, who hit in the seventh spot in the lineup, had two of those three hits on a 2-for-4 plate performance. Josh Miller tallied a 2-for-4 hitting line for the visitors as well.
Making his second start in five days, senior Brian Willis strung six hits and three runs (two earned) over five innings from the hill to earn his second win on the week as well. He also struck out four. Braxton Lewis struck out two and allowed just two hits in 1-2/3 innings of relief work to grab his second save of the weekend. Starter Steven Spire (2-2) saddled the loss for USC Aiken after being rattled for five hits and four earned runs in 4-1/3 innings of work.
USC Aiken used a leadoff double by Teddy Leverett, a full-count walk by Kyle Rice and a two-run double by J.J. Loker to take a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first, but UNCP answered with big hits of its own in the bottom of the frame, including Coker's two-run bomb over the fence in left field. A costly fielding error by the Braves, as well as a RBI single by Rice, gave the lead back to the Pacers in the third, but the Braves knotted the score back up in the bottom of the frame courtesy of a RBI single by Coker.
Maoz gave the hosts their first lead on a clutch hit off of relief pitcher Derek Beasley in the fifth, but reliever Taylor Grover issued a bases-loaded walk to Keith Whitman in the seventh to give UNCP an insurance run. USC Aiken cut into its two-run deficit with a RBI single by pinch hitter Tripp Warrick, but Lewis came on to retire five of the last seven USCA batters of the game to secure the win.
UNCP will be back in action again on Tuesday when the Braves make the short trip to Wilson to battle region rival Barton (12-15) at Nixon Field. First pitch has been set for 3 p.m.