Facing its rival for the fourth time this season, Augusta State adopted a patient strategy Wednesday night.
The Jaguars kept taking pitches and the Pacers kept throwing balls. Augusta State’s plan worked.
With 10 walks and a key two-run squeeze play late, the Jaguars shocked No. 4 USC Aiken, 12-7, at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
“Right now, we’re struggling at the plate a little bit,” Augusta State coach Chris Cooper said. “If you see a lot of pitches, you’re going to get more comfortable.”
The Jaguars rallied for two runs in the seventh and five in the eighth for a non-conference win, the first in the two-game Outback Cup series. The teams will meet again April 18 in Aiken for the final game of the series.
Augusta State (10-24) snapped a six-game losing streak to USC Aiken, with a little help from the Pacers. Seven USC Aiken pitchers struggled with their command, allowed 14 hits, hit two batters and committed a balk.
“The pitching was just absolutely ridiculous,” USC Aiken coach Kenny Thomas said. “It’s obvious what they were doing. They were going up there taking, fake bunting. We just went up there and threw ball after ball after ball.”
USC Aiken (22-9) scored two in the seventh on a Will Tankersley double and a Bill Gerstenslager single to take a 7-5 lead. Augusta State bounced back in a big way.
“We just kept fighting,” Jaguars center fielder Caleb Saggus said. “Everybody took the approach at the plate like every at-bat was the ninth inning. It was a lot of focus.”
The game turned for Augusta State in the bottom of the seventh inning when third-base coach Bob Kellet called for a squeeze bunt.
Will Smith bounced the ball down the first-base line, and USC Aiken’s Ty Barkell charged hard, slipping on the wet grass. With Barkell on the ground, the ball hopped over his glove. Kevin Dodson and Ross Miles scored from third and second, respectively, as the Jaguars tied the game for the second time.
“I was running to first and watching it,” Smith said. “When I saw it bounce I said, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It worked perfectly.”