While pitching may win championships, hitting will win a lot of baseball games.
That’s exactly what the No. 6 USC Aiken baseball team is finding out, as the Pacers (25-5, 12-3 Peach Belt Conference) head into tonight’s non-conference matchup against PBC rival Augusta State (10-21, 3-12) on a 10-game winning streak in which they’ve scored double-digits nine times.
The lone exception was a 9-4 road win over North Georgia.
Sparking that run has been the heart of the Pacer batting order. No. 3 hitter Bryce Baur is second in the PBC with 52 hits, and the senior center fielder’s .413 batting average is third in the league.
He’s overshadowed by the next two hitters in the order, as cleanup hitter Bill Gerstenslager leads the league in batting average (.458), hits (54) and doubles (18). The senior designated hitter is on a 17-game hitting streak and is also tied for third in the PBC in RBIs at 35 with the Pacers’ No. 5 hitter, Ty Barkell. The sophomore first baseman has a 21-game hitting streak of his own to go with six home runs and 48 hits, both good for a tie for third in the PBC.
The Jaguars are headed the exact opposite direction coming into tonight’s tilt, the first of the two-game Outback Cup. They’re batting .281 as a team, 11th in the PBC and nearly 80 points behind the Pacers’ league-best team average of .360.
South Aiken grad Justin Appel, a senior catcher, is tied for the team lead with two home runs in only 12 games with eight starts. Junior second baseman Jeff Rice is the Jaguars’ leader at the plate, batting .341 with a pair of home runs and 42 hits on the year.
The Pacers will send Adrian Rivero (0-0, 2.08) to the mound for his second midweek start, a role head coach Kenny Thomas said he is hoping Rivero will fill from here on out. He’ll face Josh Barks (0-2, 9.10).
Tonight’s game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta, with the second game of the Outback Cup set for April 24 at Roberto Hernandez Stadium. In between, the two teams will get together for a conference series at The ’Bert on April 5 and 6.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.