Pirates edge Falcons in conference tournament

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Armstrong Atlantic State University freshman reliever Chess Malone pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to help the 11th-ranked Pirates escape with a 5-3 win May 10 over the University of Montevallo on the second day of the 2012 Peach Belt Conference Baseball Tournament.

Armstrong Atlantic State advances to a winners’ bracket game May 11 at 7:30 p.m. Montevallo (25-27) falls into the consolation bracket, where the Falcons will face a rematch May 11 with USC-Aiken at 9 a.m.

Malone earned his fourth save of the 2012 season, while Armstrong Atlantic State starter Scott Strickland improved to 9-3. Strickland fanned eight batters and walked six in 6 2/3 innings.

Montevallo starter Alex Guilford was tagged with the hard-luck loss as he allowed five runs, but only one was earned.

Catcher John Roberts and second baseman Will Thomas paced the Pirates with a pair of hits each, while second baseman Will Fulmer and third baseman Andrew Hill, a Pelham High School graduate, both had two hits for the Falcons.

The Pirates manufactured their first run in the top of the fourth for a 1-0 lead.  Roberts reached on a throwing error and advanced to second on the play. He moved to third on a groundout and came home on a successful safety squeeze bunt by Jones.

In the fifth, the Pirates pushed the lead to 4-0 on back-to-back nearly identical RBI infield singles by Jones and Thomas. Lead-off man Casey Maloney plated the third run of the frame with a single to right center field.

Montevallo dented the scoreboard, almost literally, as first baseman Heath Peterson blasted a 395-foot solo home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth to trim the margin to 4-1. It was his 14th round-tripper of the year.

Later in the frame, left fielder Zack Willoughby drilled an RBI triple off the right-field fence to make it a two-run contest at 4-2.

Both teams scratched singles tallies in the seventh – Armstrong on a 390-foot solo blast to left-center field by Chris Zittrouer and Montevallo on an RBI single to right from designated hitter Chris Ross, a Pelham High School graduate.

The Pirates escaped further trouble in the bottom of the seventh when Malone entered the game and induced Blaine Rosenberg, an Oak Mountain High School graduate, to line out to second with two outs and the bases loaded.

Malone issued a lead-off walk in the eighth, but then coaxed a double-play grounder back to the mound to wipe out the baserunner. He tossed a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning to close out the Pirates’ win.