No. 21 USC AIKEN 14 GRU AUGUSTA 5
Facing a season-ending six-game homestand that could define his team's season, USC Aiken baseball coach Kenny Thomas was looking for a particular attitude from his team in Wednesday's game against GRU Augusta.
He got it, as the Pacers (32-13) collected the 14-5 win over the visiting Jaguars (17-30).
“You can't win all six of them if you don't win the first one,” he said. “It's a mindset, and I thought our guys had a great mindset tonight.”
Winning a bulk of the six games, at the very least, will help the Pacers – ranked fourth in the first Southeast Regional poll – make the field for the six-team regional. They got started toward that goal early.
Freshman Nick Yobbi (3-1) induced a double play to erase a leadoff single by JD Sabo and then got a flyout to end the Jaguar first. The Pacers looked headed for a similar fate against David Bermudez (1-4) after two quick outs, but that's when the bats got rolling.
Tyler Moore laced a single to center, and Ty Barkell followed with a two-run home run to left center, his ninth of the year.
Ryan Metzler went the opposite way for a double, and he advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on a TJ Costen single. The home team wasn't done, though, as Matt Bosse followed with a two-run dinger of his own to give the Pacers a 5-0 lead after one inning.
“The big thing in the first inning, we got two outs and then scored five runs,” Thomas said. “That was obviously huge for the ball game.”
Yobbi sat the Jaguars down in order the next two innings, but he ran into some trouble in the fourth. He surrendered four hits in an inning that also included a Metzler error, and GRU Augusta scored four runs to cut the lead to just one.
Thomas said that the inning wasn't as bad a reflection on Yobbi as one might expect, with the error and a passed ball assisting the Jaguar rally.
“He battled, and he had a little bit of tough luck in the fourth,” Thomas said.
Yobbi's teammates didn't let him down offensively, though. They tacked on four runs in the bottom of the fourth – the biggest blow a two-run triple by Sean Miller – to push the margin back to four runs, and it never got much closer than that.
“It's great confidence for me,” Yobbi said of the bounceback inning. “It's something that we've missed all season.”
Other than a run in the seventh inning when Caleb Smith allowed a leadoff walk to come home on a pair of steals and a wild pitch, the Pacer relievers – Taylor Peed, Smith, Jake Padgett and Randy Sipp – were solid, surrendering just two hits and three walks over four innings.
Moore and Metzler led the Pacers' offensively with three hits and an RBI each, while Barkell, Bosse and Charlie Padilla each had two hits. Bosse had four RBIs to lead the way for the home team, and Miller, Barkell and Randy Luckett had two each.
The Pacers will now turn their attention to a three-game set against Georgia Southwestern this weekend before hosting Catawba for two games on May 2 and 3 to end the season.
“It's a great start,” Yobbi said of the win. “We came out hitting, pitched good, and I think we're going to keep it going through these next (five) games.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman USC Aikenís Sean Miller makes contact in a win over GRU Augusta.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman USC Aiken's Nick Yobbi delivers a pitch against GRU Augusta on Wednesday.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman USC Aiken's Ryan Metzler (5) and Tyler Moore (11) greet Ty Barkell at the plate after Barkell's two-run home run in the first inning against GRU Augusta on Wednesday.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman USC Aiken's Ty Barkell squares for contact on his two-run first-inning home run against GRU Augusta on Wednesday.×