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May 11, 2007
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Scott Eckard tossed a complete game and USC Upstate scored a come from behind 5-3 victory over USC Aiken to stay alive in the 2007 Peach Belt Conference Baseball Tournament Friday afternoon at Harley Park.
Upstate (34-24), ranked 30th in the nation, advances to play Columbus State Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. in an elimination game. USC Aiken (36-21) plays Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. against the loser of Friday night's game between Armstrong Atlantic State and Francis Marion.
"Scott (Eckard) pitched a great game," said Upstate head coach Fincher. "I continued to ask him how his arm was feeling and he said he wanted to keep going out there. He won the game for us and I'm real proud of him."
"One guy out-pitched our six," said USC Aiken head coach Kenny Thomas. "Our guys fought hard. They got two balls that rolled up the middle and we didn't. It was a tough loss. We played well and they played well."
Aiken jumped on top first with two runs in the second inning. Zach Cooper singled to drive in the first run of the game, plating Chris Sheehan. Marc Joehnk reached on a fielder's choice and Ben Tankersley scored to give Aiken the 2-0 lead.
Upstate got a run back in the third inning when Andrew Runion's sacrifice fly scored Jake Rollins with the bases loaded, but Aiken reliever Jon Paul got out of the jam without any further damage. The Spartans tied the game with a run in the fourth inning when Rollins singled to drive in Kyle Bowley with the game-tying run.
Aiken grabbed the lead back in the fifth inning on Darryl Puis' run-scoring double. Upstate again tied the game when John Caddell singled to center to drive in Jimmy Tanner to make the score 3-3. The hit tied the all-time hits record at Upstate, tying teammate Bret Hansen at 240 career hits.
The Spartans took the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Runion doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on Eric Guillen's ground out. Runion scored the eventual game-winning run on Andrew Maddox's single and Maddox later scored on Bowley's RBI single to give Upstate a 5-3 lead.
Eckard shut down the Pacer bats in the final two innings. He got a line out double play in the eighth and allowed just one baserunner in the ninth. Eckard improved to 6-4 with the win and finished with four strikeouts. Aiken reliever Dustin Tyra took the loss, the first of the season, to fall to 4-1 on the year.
"I was able to find the breaking ball and it kept it working for most of the game," said Eckard. "The fastball was working on and off. I saw Coach Fincher take off his hat (in the eighth inning, coming out to the mound) and I said, `oh, no.' But, her asked me what I wanted to do and I asked him if I could face the next hitter. He let me stay in and then again heading into the ninth."
Runion and Bowley led Upstate at the plate with two hits. Zach Cooper finished with three hits for the Pacers.