AIKEN, SC - North Georgia Saints led 9-0 but
had to hold on for dear life as Armstrong Atlantic State rallied
but fell short in a 12-11 thriller in the first round of the PBC
Tournament in Aiken, S.C. With that win, the Saints advance to the
semifinals on Sunday at 2:30 against the winner of the USC
Aiken/Augusta State match.
North Georgia (33-23) jumped out early with five runs in the bottom of the first off AASU starter Cody Walden, taking advantage of a stiff wind blowing out to right. Craig Brisson started the game with a triple to right followed two batters later by Andre Airich who took a 3-0 pitch out over the right-field fence for a 2-0 lead.
Brad Hall then walked and Chad Sage followed with a single, setting the table for Logan Sharrett who hit the second pitch he saw from Walden to right center where it bounced on top of the wall and then over for a three-run homer.
The Saints added another in the third as Sharrett reached on a two-base error and then scored on Adam Baker's seeing-eye single up the middle.
Airich's second home run of the day in the fourth pushed the lead to 7-0 and was the end of the day for Walden. After Hall walked, Sage pounded out NGCSU's fourth homer of the day, a long blast over the centerfield wall that left the score 9-0.
The Pirates broke through in the sixth. After Juan Dorado drew the first walk of the day issued by Musselwhite, Alex Wyche sent an RBI triple to the wall in right center. But Musselwhite responded by striking out Kenny Cail and getting Drew Walker to fly out to center to end the threat.
The Pirates began their rally in the seventh. Drew Carnes hit a one-out home run to left center followed by an RBI single from Juan Dorado, driving in Josh Heath who had reached with a single. That was the end of the day for Musselwhite, who set down 13 Pirates in a row to begin the game and carried a no-hitter into the fifth. He left the game after the seventh, having surrendered three runs on seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
Armstrong Atlantic added six in the eighth to cut the lead to 10-9. The first four Pirates reached base, three with singles, against NGCSU reliever Garrett Lussi, who gave up five runs in his 2/3 of an inning. AASU sent three more to the plate with two outs, the big blow, a two-run double from Wyche.
North Georgia added two in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single from Brisson and a home run from Jordan Erisman, the sixth of the day for North Georgia.
Armstrong Atlantic State made their final comeback attempt in the ninth with two runs. Drew Carnes doubled home Walker, who led off the inning with a walk. With two outs, Michael Price doubled to left to score Carnes, but could not come around to tie the game as Wilson flied out to center to end it.
Musselwhite (6-1) got the win while Walden (11-2) took only his second loss of the season.
The six North Georgia home runs set a new PBC Tournament record, surpassing the old mark of five set by Columbus State against USC Upstate in 1996.
Airich finished 4-for-6 with the two home runs and three RBIs. Brisson went 3-for-6 with a run and an RBI while Chad Sage also had three hits with the homer, two RBIs and two runs scored. Five Saints finished the game with multiple hits.
Carnes was 4-for-5 for the Pirates with his home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. Dorado, Wyche, Roberts and Price all had two hits for Armstrong Atlantic State (38-18).