GREENWOOD, S.C. - The No. 9-ranked Lander University baseball team scored eight runs after a two and a half hour rain and lightning delay to erase a 6-1 deficit and capture a 9-6 Peach Belt Conference series-opening victory over visiting No. 17-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University on Saturday evening in Greenwood, S.C.
The win keeps the Bearcats (25-8, 12-4 PBC) atop the PBC's East Division as Lander now enjoys a full one-game lead over USC Aiken, while Armstrong (21-9, 8-8 PBC) slips to .500 in the league with the loss.
The Pirate bats were hot to start off the contest, scoring five runs in the first inning against Lander starter Cory Hopper. After a Casey Maloney walk to lead off the contest, Zach Taylor drilled his 10th home run of the season to center field for the quick 2-0 lead. Cody Powell added an RBI double and both Drew Walker and John Roberts had groundout RBIs for the five-run frame.
Armstrong plated another run in the second on an RBI double from Taylor and had a golden opportunity for more runs with runners on second and third with nobody out, but reliever Michael White got the Bearcats out of the jam with no more runs scored.
Lander got its first run in the in the third inning on an A.J. Nunziato sacrifice fly, then in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Bearcats' leadoff runner on, a lightning delay halted play. Rain soon followed and play was suspended until just before 11:00 p.m., when the game was able to resume.
Jordan Owens greeted Armstrong starter Chandler Hall with an RBI double in the first at-bat after play resumed, making the score 6-2, and a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch plated two more runs for Lander in the fifth inning.
Lander took the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning as a wild pitch by reliever Jesse Osborne plated a run, then an RBI groundout by Jeff May tied the score at 6-all. Another wild pitch, this time by reliever Ross Beach, brought home the go-ahead run.
The Bearcats then added insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning on a two-run home run by Jordan Owens.
Scott Elitzky (3-1) picked up the win for the Bearcats with 2 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief, walking two while striking out two. Kyle Tate worked a scoreless ninth inning for his first save of the season.
Jesse Osborne (0-1) took the loss for the Pirates as he walked the only batter he faced, who scored the go-ahead run.
Taylor went 3-for-4 with three RBIs to lead the Pirates at the plate with his two-run home run, while Owens went 2-for-3 with four RBIs to lead the Bearcats offensively.
The two teams will wrap up their three-game Peach Belt Conference series with a 1:30 p.m. doubleheader on Sunday.