First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE -- Much like the weather, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke baseball team's play deteriorated after dark.
The Braves almost blew a seven-run lead in the seventh inning, then held on for an 8-6 victory over Peach Belt Confer-ence foe USC-Spartanburg in the second game of a doubleheader Saturday.
The Rifles grabbed the opener 5-3.
Purnell Swett graduate San-dy Jacobs pitched five strong innings in Game 2, giving up one earned run on three hits. He also struck out three to push his record to 2-0.
“He did a good job today,” UNCP coach Paul O'Neil said. “We got him through five innings, and he gave the team a chance to win.”
Jacobs also got some help from former Red Springs standout Ashley Brewer, who picked up the save.
Early on, UNCP (3-1, 1-1 PBC) gave Jacobs plenty of breathing room by torching Rifles starting pitcher Todd Jones for six runs in the first three innings.
Drew Paul led off the second with a single and moved to third on Ryan Young's double to left. One out later Nick Hoffman singled, scoring Paul and Young to stake Jacobs to an early two-run lead.
But the Braves were-n't done yet.
Two batters later, Isaac Ezzell singled, and a throwing error by Spartanburg third baseman Chris Nowak allowed Hoffman to score and Ezzell to take third.
Nowak's fielding troubles continued when two batters later he booted Trevor Ham-aker's grounder, allowing Ezzell to score.
Jones got Andy Jewell to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning but not before surrendering a 4-0 lead.
Up 6-1, Jacobs got into hot water in the fifth, putting runners on the corners with two out. Patrick Brannan hit a dribbler that looked like trouble, but Hoffman made a nice play from behind the plate and gunned out Brannan at first base to end the frame.
UNCP led 8-1 going into the seventh when things started going downhill.
Two singles and a wild pitch from Dan Barzso put runners on first and second with one out. Barzso then walked three of the next four batters to force in two runs, but he did manage to get Tyson Cross looking in between.
With two outs and the bases loaded Barzso induced a grounder to short, but Ezzell threw the ball away. The mistake allowed two more runs to score, pulling the Rifles ( 3-1, 1-1) within three, 8-5.
O'Neil brought in Josh Benton to pitch, and Benton promptly plunked Derek Ford to re-load the bases for designated hitter Jason Smith.
Benton left after one batter, and former Red Springs standout Ashley Brewer came in to put out the fire.
Brewer did walk in a run but recovered to mow down Jerry Lee to ending the game.
“I think our team got complacent,” O'Neil said. “One thing led to another. A guy got tired on the mound and, all of a sudden, they're back in the game.”
Brewer got credit for his first save for his work in the seventh.
In Game 1, the Rifles notched a victory with two runs in the top of the ninth. Cross singled in Zach Huckabay and Stephen Warren added an RBI groundout to break a 3-3 tie.
Stan Smith (1-0) got the win for USCS, while Ryan Cratch (0-1) took the loss for the Braves.
The teams play the third game of the series today at 1 p.m.