AIKEN --- No one on the gameday staff at USC Aiken's Roberto Hernandez Stadium could say for sure whether the lights on the scoreboard that marked the bottom of the ninth inning were in proper working condition for Friday's game against Erskine.
In the previous 16 games leading up to Game 1 of the regular season's final series, the Pacers had never needed a bottom of the ninth. A school-record home winning streak made sure of that.
But the rarely-used area of the scoreboard flashed to life as the Pacers made their last trip to the plate. USC Aiken put a 2 on the board in the ninth, but it didn't come close to helping the Pacers avoid their largest home defeat of the season, 18-5, to Erskine.
"We did nothing," said USC Aiken coach Kenny Thomas, whose team drops to 38-16. "We didn't play defense, we didn't make plays, we've got guys not running out balls down the line and we didn't pitch very well."
Instead, the night belonged to an Erskine team hoping to slip its way into postseason play. The Flying Fleet (36-16) scored their 18 runs on 17 hits, including a two-homer night from Greg Ruff (5-for-6, 5 RBI) and a grand slam from designated hitter Bryan Fogle (3-for-3, 4 RBI).
USC Aiken, hoping to finish the regular season on a strong enough note to play host to an NCAA Division II Regional, didn't help that cause. The Pacers left seven runners on base, four in scoring position, and three pitchers surrendered 11 earned runs and eight walks.
Erskine's Mike Moore (8-2) held the Pacers at bay with three runs over 6w innings.
Thomas said playing host to the regional might have disappeared along with his team's fight.
"It is concerning to me that we would play like this in a situation like this. I thought the guys would realize we could seal the deal on hosting the regional, but obviously they didn't understand that or thought they could just show up and that's it," he said. "I'm not sure that we can seal it now, but at least we've got the opportunity to do something about it."
The Pacers close out the regular season with a 2 p.m. game today against Erskine.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org