No. 10 UNCP Powers Past No. 21 Pirates, Reaches PBC Title Game
COLUMBUS, Ga. – UNCP scored four or more runs in four different innings, but needed all of them to hold off upset-minded Armstrong Atlantic, as the 10th-ranked Braves advanced to their first Peach Belt Tournament championship game with a 20-15 win over the 21st-ranked Pirates on Tuesday evening at historic Golden Park in Columbus, Ga.
The triumph marked the eighth-straight victory for UNCP (41-10) who will now await the winner of Wednesday afternoon's elimination contest between Augusta State and North Georgia for Thursday's championship game which has been slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch. The setback snapped a valiant comeback effort in the PBC Tournament for Armstrong Atlantic (35-17) who posted two wins in the loser's bracket after dropping its opener to North Georgia on Sunday.
The highest-scoring game in PBC Tournament history, which posted a game time of 3 hours and 45 minutes, featured 34 hits, six errors, 10 different pitchers and 407 total pitches. The 17 RBI on the night by the Braves tied for the second-most in tournament history, but the most since Columbus State booked the same amount against North Florida in the opening round of the 1998 PBC Tournament.
The Braves got multi-hit nights from four different players, including Josh Haley who drove in four runs and scored four times on a career-best 5-for-5 night at the plate. Kenny Mickens drove in six runs, including four on a first-inning grand slam, to highlight a 2-for-3 hitting line, while Jason Coker scored twice on a 3-for-5 plate performance. Brad Bridgeman doubled on a 2-for-6 night for UNCP as well.
John Roberts and Drew Walker both homered, as well as combined for nine RBI, on 4-for-6 performances for the Pirates, with Chris Zittrouer, Michael Price and Lawrence Jackson all turning in a pair of hits.
Haley's five hits matched a PBC Tournament single game record – a mark last achieved by Georgia College's Mike DeVeaux in the quarterfinals of the 2006 PBC Tournament. The six RBI by Mickens is tied for the second-most in PBC Tournament history and is the most RBI since Armstrong Atlantic booked six in the semifinals of the 2007 event.
Brad Isom (10-3) picked up his 10th win of the season for the Braves despite surrendering 10 hits and six earned runs in six innings of work. He also struck out four. The 10 wins is the most for a Pembroke hurler since former UNCP standout Ron Norman booked 11 wins during the 1974 season. Chandler Hall (8-4) lost for the second time this season against UNCP after yielding six hits and seven earned runs in just one inning for the Pirates.
Armstrong Atlantic wasted no time in forging an early lead by utilizing a one-out walk by Price, as well as an ensuing inside-the-park home run by Roberts, to take a 2-0 advantage in the first inning. UNCP would storm back in the bottom of the frame, however, getting a pair of runners into scoring position with its first two at-bats before trimming its deficit in half on a sac fly from the bat of Keith Whitman. Walks by Eitan Maoz and Joe Mangum minutes later would load the bases and set the table for a grand slam by Mickens that caught the top of the wall in left field and gave the Braves a 5-2 lead heading to the second.
The Black and Gold would continue its offensive attack in the next inning, getting singles from both Haley and Coker to, again, set the table for Whitman who delivered a single through the right side to plate the runner from third. A fielder's choice RBI by Aaron Parnell two batters later would push the lead out to 7-2.
The Pirates would get themselves back in the game in the fourth, scoring four runs with two outs on the board, including Walker's double to the gap in right field that brought in a pair of scores, to make it a one-run game. The momentum would be short-lived though as UNCP sent 14 batters to the plate and scored eight runs of their own in the home half of the inning to take a seemingly insurmountable 15-6 cushion into the fifth.
However, despite seeing its deficit swell to 19-6 after the Braves scored four more runs in fifth, Armstrong Atlantic would get themselves back into the game for the second time on the night, this time sending a dozen batters to the plate in tacking up a 7-run seventh inning off a pair of UNCP relief pitchers.
The Braves would scratch the scoreboard for another run to push its advantage out to 20-13 in the bottom of the seventh, before Armstrong Atlantic finally capped the scoring on the night with two of its own in the eighth.