COLUMBUS, GA – North Georgia erupted for a five-run seventh inning on Monday evening to take down Lander University 8-1 and advance to the semifinals of the 2011 Peach Belt Conference Tournament at Golden Park.
The Saints (34-18) advance in the winner's bracket to Tuesday's semifinal game at 4:00 p.m. against an opponent that is yet to be determined. North Georgia will now have to be defeated twice to not advance to the championship round. The Bearcats (29-23) fall to the loser's bracket and will take on Armstrong Atlantic on Tuesday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. in an elimination game.
In just four years of being eligible to compete for a PBC Tournament Title, the Saints are one victory away from playing in the Championship game in three of those four years, including the 2008 championship team.
North Georgia put two more runners on in the second inning for Jordan Erisman who lined a single to left field, bringing Dustin Carpenter racing to the plate and giving the Saints a 2-0 second-inning advantage.
Lander threatened at the plate in the second inning, putting a pair of runners on base with just one out, but North Georgia starter Andrew Wallace came to life and notched back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat and preserve the Saints' lead.
North Georgia pitchers tossed 15 straight scoreless innings to open the PBC Tournament, but that streak ran out in the seventh inning when the Bearcats used a single and stolen base from Patrick Grady to set up an RBI single down the right field line by Adam Davey to cut the Saints' lead in half at 2-1.
The Saints wasted no time getting the run right back and adding some insurance in the bottom half of the inning, as Lander fell apart on defense and committed a trio of errors that led to five runs.
The big play came when Troy Snitker put down a sacrifice bunt that was thrown down the first base line, sending two runners home and giving North Georgia a 5-1 advantage. Chad Sage followed and doubled off the right field wall to bring home another run, and Dustin Carpenter capped the big inning with a sacrifice fly to give the Saints their largest lead of the tournament at 7-1.
The Lander pitching staff struggled with control in the eighth, allowing the Saints to push across one more run and run away with the 8-1 victory.
Wallace (4-1) picked up the win in 7.0 innings of work, allowing eight hits, but giving up just one run, while striking out six and walking one. Lander's Chris Thomas (6-6) suffered the loss, allowing six runs on as many hits, while walking three and striking out five.