First-year USC Aiken baseball coach Kenny Thomas isn't one to complain very much. But after Saturday's doubleheader split with rival Augusta State, Thomas felt like his opinions should be heard.
Thomas' Pacers topped Augusta State 15-10 in the first game, but their bats went silent in the second game and the Jaguars salvaged a split with a 5-3 victory in the second contest. The two teams play the rubber game of the series today at 1 p.m. at the ASU Sports Complex.
"We swung the bats well in the first game," Thomas said. "We didn't hit very well in the second game. That's been our story all season. We've played well in our first games (of doubleheaders) all season and then we struggle in the second game. We're 24-21 and we've played 45 games. That's a win about every other game. We've had no consistency."
Part of the Pacers' inconsistency Saturday may have been related to the weather. Both teams survived four rain delays in the first contest, then when the rain ended, gusting winds made life miserable for both schools.
But Augusta State overcame the gusting winds in Game 2 as well as USC Aiken hurler Zach Conrad to improve its season record to 21-21 overall, 8-12 in the Peach Belt Conference.
Jaguar pitcher Ricky Buffkin, who started at shortstop in Game 1, pitched the complete game to pick up the victory in Game 2. The sophomore allowed six hits and one earned run while striking out six batters to run his record to 5-3 on the season.
About the only threat Buffkin faced from USC Aiken came in the top of the sixth with the Jaguars leading 4-1. Chris Edwards and Chris Harrington reached on back-to-back errors to put runners at first and second before Brian Patterson followed by doubling off the center field fence to score Edwards and make it 4-2.
Later in the inning, Patterson scored on Brian Martin's sacrifice fly to trim the lead to 4-3 with two outs in the inning. However, Buffkin promptly struck out Sam Garau to end the threat with the tying run on second.
Augusta State would add an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Todd Drake reached on an infield single and ended up on second following a throwing error from shortstop Marc Bishop. Drake later scored on Louis Mackie's RBI groundout to make it 5-3.
With the exception of a two-out walk to Edwards, Buffkin pitched a scoreless seventh to pick up the victory.
"My defense helped me out a lot today," Buffkin said. "It didn't matter (that they made those two errors in the sixth) because they made the plays behind me to get out of there. The defensive plays definitely made it a lot easier for me."
Conrad allowed just five runs on six hits, but all five of his runs were earned.
"Conrad did a good job," Thomas said. "Unfortunately, he made two or three bad pitches that cost him the game. You figure in the sixth inning, we're down by one run. We make an error and the guy scores later. That definitely changes your strategy."
The first game of the day was a far cry from the second contest. The Pacers used 14 hits, including doubles from Garau, Edwards and Mitch Hearne and a solo homer from Butch Martin to beat the Jaguars.
Chris Daniels worked eight solid innings to pick up the victory and improve his season record to 4-4 for USC Aiken.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.
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