DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The University of North Georgia baseball team proved Saturday that it could compete with the best as the Saints kept up with the nationally eighth-ranked University of South Carolina Aiken Pacers despite falling 9-4 and 14-10 in their Peach Belt Conference doubleheader at Bob Stein Stadium.
The Saints (9-18, 3-9 PBC) and Pacers (25-5, 12-3 PBC) combined to score 52 runs off 89 hits in the three-game series, which USC Aiken swept 3-0. In Saturday's twinbill alone, the two combined for 37 runs and 62 hits.
Game 1: #8 USC Aiken 9, North Georgia 4
In the day's first game, things progressed scoreless through the first three innings with USC Aiken scoring the game's first runs in the top of the fourth frame off four hits and a North Georgia error.
North Georgia was able to answer with a single run in the bottom of the inning when Eason Spivey ripped his first home run of the season to left field. It was the first homer of the day, as USC Aiken would later hit three in the second game.
The Pacers would add another two runs in the top of the sixth inning with North Georgia then cutting the deficit with a three in the eighth. But it would not be enough as USC Aiken would put the finishing touches on the victory in the final frame with four runs off three hits and two errors.
North Georgia left 13 runners on base in the game while USC Aiken stranded six.
Brad Barto, Spivey and Jesse Strickland all recorded two hits for North Georgia while Bryce Baur and and Bill Gerstenslager each went 3-5 with two runs batted in. Baur led all players with three runs scored in the game.
Clint Spratlin (1-1) pitched the first six innings for North Georgia, striking out three batters and walking one while giving up the first five runs to accept the loss while Derek Beasley (7-0) pitched the first seven innings for USC Aiken to secure the win with four strikeouts.
Game 2: #8 USC Aiken 14, North Georgia 10
The day's second game progressed similarly to the first in that USC Aiken jumped out to an early lead, out-scoring the Saints 6-3 through the first three innings. The Pacers would add another two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to edge out to a seemingly insurmountable 11-3 lead, but North Georgia proved to be relentless.
Spivey and Travis Naraine scored in the bottom of the sixth for the Saints, keeping their offense rolling with four hits before North Georgia piled on five runs in the seventh, including two off a double to left field by Derek Hooper. In the seventh, Brad Barto, Spivey, Naraine, Tanner Scroggins and Devin Gearhart all scored to pull North Georgia within one run of the nationally-ranked Pacers.
Despite giving up the seven runs between the two innings, the Pacers never gave up the lead, adding three more runs in the eighth and ninth to secure their 10th win in a row.
Gerstenslager, Kenny Bellavance and Gearhart all recorded four hits in the game as North Georgia out-hit USC Aiken 20-19. 12 different players between the two squads finished the game with multiple hits.
Jacob Beauchamp (0-4) went five innings for North Georgia, giving up eight runs, while Wyatt Brown (4-1) pitched five and one-third innings for USC Aiken to record the win. Sam Daniel came in to record his first save of the season in two and one-third innings of work.
North Georgia will play a single game this Wednesday, Mar. 27 on the road at Anderson University with first pitch scheduled for 6:00 p.m. The Saints will then return home for a three-game PBC series with the University of North Carolina Pembroke on Friday, Mar. 29 and Saturday, Mar. 30. The Braves and Saints will play a 2:00 p.m. doubleheader on Friday and a single game at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.