Lander Beats Aiken; Advances to Championship Game
COLUMBUS, Ga. - The No. 30-ranked Lander baseball team exploded
for four runs in the eighth inning Saturday night and went on to
defeat No. 13 USC Aiken, 7-4, at Golden Park and earn a spot in
Sunday’s Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship game
Lander (37-17), which is the fourth seed in the West Division, will be making its first-ever appearance in the championship game after setting a new school record for wins in a season. Lander and No. 11 Armstrong are scheduled to start at 1 p.m. to see who will earn the PBC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tournament.
USC Aiken (37-18), which is the third seed in the East Division, must wait to see if they earn a berth into the regional tournament.
Lander’s Ross Davis (4-3) earned the win in relief after striking out three, walking one, and allowing one earned run on four hits in 3.2 innings of work.
Tied at 3-all, Jeff May and Colby Painter had back to back singles to lead off the eighth and both scored on Ian Harvey’s fielder’s choice coupled with a throwing error. AJ Nunziato followed with a two-run homer over the right field wall to put the Bearcats up 7-3.
The Pacers’ Ryan Milewski (7-1) was tagged with the loss, striking out two and allowing three runs on four hits in two innings pitched.
Lander took a 1-0 first-inning lead when Harvey, who reached on a single, later scored on a throwing error. But USCA tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the inning on Josh Miller’s solo home run over the left field wall.
The Pacers took a 2-1 lead in the second after Bill Gerstenslager scored on Tyler Bourdo’s RBI single.
Lander came right back in the fourth and made it 2-2 on Harvey’s sacrifice fly.
Starting pitcher Brandon Miller pulled the Bearcats out of a fourth-inning jam when, with runners on first and second, he set down three straight Pacers with a pair of strikeouts and a foul fly.
Lander regained the lead at 3-2 in the sixth inning when May reached on an error, advance to third on an error and went home on Nunziato’s groundout.
But USC Aiken answered in the seventh and tied the game at 3-all on Miller’s RBI single that scored JJ Loker.
The Pacers scored the final run of the game in the ninth on Miller’s RBI single that drove in Bryce Baur.
For Lander, Painter batted 2-for-4, and Nunziato and May both went 2-for-5.
For USCA, Miller went 3-for-5 and Gerstenslager 2-for-5.