AIKEN, SC - A six-run seventh inning proved to be the difference as Florida Southern College baseball rallied from a two-run deficit to take a 6-5 win in game one of a three-game series at USC Aiken on Friday afternoon at Roberto Hernandez Stadium. The No. 5 Moccasins (4-1) were kept off the board by the Pacers (6-2) for the first six innings but exploded for five hits and six runs in the seventh inning to pick up their fourth-straight victory.
USC Aiken nearly rallied back to win by scoring the final three runs of the game and putting the tying run on second in the bottom of the ninth, but Leo Rodriguez slammed the door shut for his fourth save in a row and Chase Pilato (1-0) picked up the win in relief. Isaiah Cullum's two-run single plated the go-ahead runs in the seventh, and Pablo Cabrera provided the eventual winning run on a sacrifice fly later in the inning to lift the Mocs to victory.
The teams are slated to play game two of the weekend series tomorrow at 2 p.m. and the final game on Sunday at 1 p.m., but the schedule may change as rain is forecast for the weekend in Aiken. Friday's series opener, which started at 3 p.m., was moved up one hour to avoid rain later in the day.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Florida Southern looked as if it might plate the first run of the game when Cabrera lined a one-out single to left in the top of the first and stole second in the next at-bat but was gunned down at third base on a fielder's choice when Zach Scott hit a ground ball to second. The Mocs would be shut down from there as no one else would reach base until the seventh.
- While the Moccasin offense was kept silent for the majority of the game, the Pacers were able to score single runs in the bottom of the second and third innings to take an early 2-0 lead. USC Aiken's first run came across with two outs when Sean McQuillan, who was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the second, came around to score on Philip Watcher's RBI single to right. The Pacers struck again in the bottom of the third with two outs when McQuillan reached on a bases-loaded infield single to first that brought a run in from third, but Cooper Bradford struck out the next batter to keep the damage to a minimum.
- The Mocs would get out of another dangerous situation in the fifth when Bradford struck out Joey Smythers with runners on second and third to keep the score at 2-0. Pilato entered the game in relief in the sixth and struck out the first two batters he faced before inducing a ground ball to short to end the inning. Florida Southern's rally would get off to a fast start in the seventh when Cabrera lined a single to right to give Southern its first baserunner since Scott in the first.
- A passed ball to Scott allowed Cabrera to advance to second, and Scott would reach base on an error by the Pacers' shortstop that allowed Cabrera to cruise into third. Jacob Teter plated Florida Southern's first run on an infield single to short and Zach Diewert brought in the game-tying run when Scott scored on a double to left in the next at-bat. With the go-ahead run just 90 feet away, Cullum laced a single to left that scored both Teter and Scott to give the Mocs a 4-2 lead.
- Ryan Frost would draw a walk in the next at-bat to chase USC Aiken starter Mitch Spence from the game. After Jon Yarbrough recorded a strikeout for the first out of the seventh, Vaun Brown drew a walk to load the bases and cause the Pacers to make a second pitching change. Dylan Costa single home Cullum in the next at-bat and Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2 before a fielder's choice ended the inning. The Mocs sent 10 men to the plate in the inning.
- USC Aiken got a run back in the bottom half of the seventh when Blake Jenkins came around to score following three singles and an error. Pilato was able to escape the inning without another run crossing the plate, but another error in the bottom of the eighth allowed two more runs to score unearned on a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth to cut FSC's lead to 6-5.
- Rodriguez entered with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and struck out the first batter he faced. After the Moccasins went down in order in the top of the ninth, Rodriguez put the tying run on with a leadoff walk and the Pacers stole second to put a man in scoring position. But Rodriguez recorded a pop-up, a strikeout, and another pop-up to close out a wild one and give FSC its fourth-straight win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 5-2 all-time against USC Aiken and evened its record to 2-2 when facing the Pacers on the road. Moccasin head coach Lance Niekro picked up the 191st win of his career and needs just nine more to get to 200 in his seventh season at the helm.
- Cabrera went 2-for-3 to push his career hit total to 178. He needs 50 more to crack the top 10 in the Florida Southern record book. Rodriguez picked up his 11th career save to move into sixth all-time in career saves at FSC.
- Cabrera, Cullum, Diewert and Teter have reached base safely in all five games this season, while Cabrera and Diewert have a hit in each game. Florida Southern improved to 3-0 this season when facing a right-handed starter.
- The two teams continue their series with a 2 p.m. contest on Saturday and will close out the weekend with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. The time for one or both games could be shifted as rain is in the forecast this weekend in Aiken. The Moccasins are back home on Feb. 21 for a single game against Merrimack and open Sunshine State Conference action with a three-game series against Barry (Feb. 22-23).