By Caleb Bailey, Staff Writer
The Armstrong Pirates entered last weekend’s series against the Flagler College Saints with a four-game win streak. They looked to improve that streak and got the series started on Friday night.
Ryan Good took the mound for his team as the game was scoreless going into the fifth inning. That all changed when Dalton Johnson smacked an RBI triple, bringing home Joey Lupus. Johnson scored on a wild pitch soon after.
The Saints responded in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of RBI singles to tie the game.
It did not take long for the Pirates to regain the lead, as both Ryan Patterson and Matt Wisniewski recorded RBI singles and Lupus brought home a third run with an RBI fielder’s choice. The Saints’ Nick Kranick smashed a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, but that did not jolt enough life back into his team as the Pirates added two more runs on errors in the next inning. The Pirates went on to win 7-4.
Good had a great day pitching for the Pirates, going seven innings, his longest run of the season, while allowing seven hits and striking out eight.
“From a pitching stand point, I think we have to keep throwing strikes and keep doing what we have been doing during this streak,” Good said. “I think we have done a good job of keeping us in the game and giving us a shot of winning.”
The second game was not as dominant a performance by the Pirates, but the result was just as equally sweet. The Pirates and Saints were scoreless going into the third until Clayton Miller had Tyler Avera and Lupus on base. He cracked a line drive to third base, which was mishandled and allowed Miller to reach first base safely. RJ Dennard followed Miller up with a single to center field, bringing home Avera and giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
The Saints responded in the bottom of the fifth with Andrew Brodbeck crushed a double to right field, scoring two men in the process. The game remained tied at two going into the final inning.
Johnson got on base with a lead-off single and Cody Sherlin made a crucial play by laying down a bunt, sacrificing a hit and moving Johnson to second. Avera stepped up to the plate and smacked a single to center field, scoring Johnson for what would be the winning run. The Pirates won 3-2 and extended their win streak to six. Ethan Bader notched his eighth win of the year with a complete game, eight strikeout performance. The win puts him one win away from tying the Armstrong all-time record. Avera led his team, going 2-5 with the winning RBI.
“Well being in the top of the lineup, my job is to get on base,” Avera said. “I have been really working on getting the barrel to the ball and by doing this I have been making better contact and getting on base more. I’m giving the middle of our lineup the chance to drive runners in and put runs on the board for us. Anything can happen during conference play, so giving those guys the opportunity to drive me in will play a big role.”
The third game was similar to the second and both teams were pumped for their Sunday match-up. Sunday’s game was once again scoreless going into the fourth inning, but it was the Saints who struck first.
Flagler’s Joe Post was able to reach first base on a throwing error. The error also brought home Brodbeck to give the Saints a 1-0 lead. Post did some more damage in the fifth with a RBI single down the left side of the field, scoring Brodbeck once again. The Pirates found themselves in a 2-0 hole going into the sixth inning. That soon changed.
Johnson led-off the inning for the Pirates and crushed a solo home run down the right field line. The top of the eighth saw Lupus get on base with a single and Wisniewski come in to pinch run for his teammate. Sherlin came up to bat and smacked a single to center field, scoring the tying run. The game stayed tied at two through nine innings as the game headed to the top of the tenth.
After a leadoff walk, Berry Aldridge came up to the plate and laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Zach Lance to second base. Wisniewski walked and Lance was able to advance to third on a wild pitch. Johnson came in with one out and hit a hard ground ball to the second basemen. The throw was good at second to get Wisniewski out, but there was no play at first or home, and Lance scored the run that eventually won the game for the Pirates. The final was 3-2 as the Pirates moved to 22-14 on the season with a 13-11 conference record. Armstrong’s sweep put the Pirates above .500 for the first time since March 22.
“I think we’ve got to keep getting clutch hits when we need them,” Good said on the win streak. “When you go on a long streak like this, good pitching and clutch hitting play a very big role. Most importantly, we have played really well as a team. Everyone has contributed during the streak.”
Armstrong will return to action on Friday as they host PBC opponent UNC Pembroke in a three-game series. The first game starts at 3.