PEACH BELT TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS! No. 11 Pirates Down Lander, 3-1
COLUMBUS, Ga. - No. 11-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University scored twice in the top of the ninth inning to snap a 1-1 tie and capture the 2012 Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship with a 3-1 win over No. 30-ranked Lander on Sunday afternoon at Golden Park in Columbus, Ga.
The Pirates (40-14) earn the Peach Belt's automatic berth into the NCAA Championships, which begin on May 17 at a site to be announced tonight with a 10:00 p.m. selection show. The berth is the Pirates' 13th in the last 23 seasons and the tournament title is the second as Armstrong also won in 2007. Lander (37-18) must now await word of a possible at-large berth after advancing to its first PBC Tournament final.
Each team plated a run in the second inning as the Pirates' John Roberts hit a solo home run in the top half of the inning, while Lander's Erik Lunde doubled in a run in the bottom half.
Lander had five hits through the first two innings against Armstrong starter Travis Morris, but Morris settled down to hold the Bearcats at bay through three more innings of work, exiting in the sixth after giving up just one run, walking three and striking out four in five innings.
Scott Elitzsky (4-2), the starter for the Bearcats, was magnificent outside of the home run to Roberts. He did not allow another hit the rest of the way in his 8 1/3 innings of work and Armstong did not get a baserunner against him until a leadoff walk in the seventh.
The game turned in the top of the ninth inning when leadoff hitter Casey Maloney's ground ball to short resulted in a high throw to first, pulling Owens off the bag and allowing Maloney to reach. A sacrifice hit by Frederick followed by Drew Walker being hit by a pitch put runners at first and second with one out. Cory Hopper came on in relief for the Bearcats and Roberts stroked an RBI single to right field, scoring Maloney with the go-ahead run.
Clayton Miller followed one out later with a line shot up the middle, plating Walker with an insurance run.
Freshman and PBC Tournament MVP Chess Malone then closed out the ninth, giving up just one hit to earn the win in his third appearance in the tournament. Malone (3-1) hurled four innings of three-hit shutout ball, walking one while striking out five and for the tournament pitched 7 1.3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball, earning a win and a save.
Malone was joined on the All-Tournament team by John Roberts and Ethan Bader, who hurled a four-hit complete game 5-1 win over Francis Marion on Saturday to put the Pirates into the championship game.