The No. 15 USC Aiken baseball team broke open a close game against Catawba in the eighth inning for a 7-5 non-conference victory Saturday afternoon.

The Pacers improve to 36-14 on the season.

Both starting pitchers worked their magic in the early going as neither squad managed to push a run across home plate until the bottom of the fourth.

Ty Barkell opened the stanza by launching a solo home run over the left field fence for a 1-0 advantage.

Head coach Kenny Thomas' squad added to its margin in the bottom of the fifth with two more runs. Kody Belcher led off the frame by slapping a single into center field. Sean Miller singled back to the mound and the runners moved up 90 more feet as the Indians' hurler rifled a throw that was intended for first base into right field. Belcher rounded home and scored on the miscue. With one down, Barkell singled to right, plating Miller for a 3-0 edge.

Catawba, which clinched the South Atlantic Conference Championship last week, fought back with two runs in the top of the sixth inning.

Keaton Hawks homered to lead off the sixth. Ethan Satterfield singled and later came home when Julio Zubillaga singled, making it 3-2.

USCA broke the contest open in the eighth. With one down, Charles Padilla drew a walk and moved to second on Belcher's single to left. After Miller singled to third base on a high chopper that loaded the bags, Tyler Moore ripped an opposite field drive that bounced around the right field corner, allowing him to end up with a triple while driving in three runs for a 6-2 advantage. Two batters later, Ryan Metzler laced a single into center, making it 7-2.

Catawba rallied in the ninth with three runs and put a runner on third, but James Lynch was able to get out of the jam, securing the victory for Thomas' team.

Matt Hissong picked up the win after throwing 5? innings of work for USCA. He gave up just two runs on seven hits while striking out four.

Barkell and Miller posted three hits apiece while Belcher and Bosse registered a pair of base knocks. Moore drove in three while Barkell added two RBI.

USCA pounded out seven runs on 14 hits with two errors while Catawba had five runs on nine hits with two errors.

The Pacers return to action next weekend in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament at Roberto Hernandez Stadium. The PBC will announce the quarterfinal games after the completion of the regular season.