AIKEN - USC Aiken's Peach Belt Conference season began with a bang Saturday at J.H. Satcher Field.
Sam Garau hit a two-run home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Pacers a 6-4 win and complete a doubleheader sweep of USC Spartanburg.
Zach Conrad pitched seven innings of shutout ball as USC Aiken (3-1, 2-0) cruised past the Rifles (3-3, 0-2) 6-1 in the opener.
In the nightcap, USC Aiken was cruising along with a 4-0 lead when the game unraveled for starter Brian Patterson.
After Zach Huckabay struck out, Jimmy Richardson, Eddie Funston and Nate Frommelt all scored off three consecutive hits, a wild pitch and passed ball, to cut the lead to 4-3.
Reliever Chris Quarles loaded the bases in the seventh before allowing Mike Buchanan to tie the game at 4 on another wild pitch.
Andres Verde walked, and Clint Keown reached on an error before Garau's homer to right field ended the game. Garau finished 2-for-3 with three RBI.
"I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty," Pacers coach Kenny Thomas said. "We make a couple of real bonehead plays in the game that lets them back in the game. Luckily, Sam stepped up there and knocked the devil out of (the ball).
"Sam has got a lot of power and is a fast runner," Thomas said. "We needed the senior leadership to step up and help us through the year."
In Game 1, Conrad (2-0) continued his dominance a week after pitching a complete game to open the season. The senior right-hander went seven innings, allowing two hits and striking out six.
"The key to pitching is to pitch ahead and not put men on base," Thomas said. "Zach did a good job of doing that today."
In two games, Conrad has pitched 16 shutout innings, while fanning 19.
"I felt awkward all game," Conrad said. "My fastball was not on, but I had great command of my off-speed pitches. I got a lot of pop flies, and the team played great defense behind me."
Tavis Cummings led the 11-hit assault with a 3-for-4 performance while Rocky Curnayn, David Gillespie and Keown also had two hits apiece.
Keown doubled to open the first inning and scored on a wild pitch. Cummings drove in Curnayn with his double to left-center, giving Conrad a 2-0 lead.
USC Aiken, which committed 127 errors last season, benefited from five USC Spartanburg errors on the day.
The Pacers added two more in the fourth for a 6-0 lead. USC Spartanburg scored its lone run in the ninth off Huckabay's sacrifice fly, which brought in Brian O'Neill.
The teams will conclude the three-game series at 1 p.m. today.
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