Pacers win 13th straight game on the diamond

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AIKEN, S.C. – Travis Howard became the all-time leader in single season RBIs in school history and 14th-ranked USC Aiken swept a Peach Belt Conference doubleheader from Lander on Saturday afternoon at Roberto Hernandez Stadium.

The Pacers outscored the Bearcats 23-4 in the two games of the twinbill, winning game one, 11-3, before taking a 12-1 victory in the second game. The Pacers are now 32-14 overall, while the Bearcats are presently 25-19 (8-13 PBC).

The doubleheader sweep of Lander on Saturday propelled the Pacers to first place in the Peach Belt Conference with a 15-8 record. The Pacers are currently tied with eighth-ranked Georgia College & State for first in the PBC, but the Pacers hold their own destiny and the tiebreaker presently since they took two of three from GCSU at the ‘Bert earlier this season.

A junior transfer from USC Salkehatchie, Howard entered the doubleheader on Saturday needing just three RBIs to eclipse the single season RBI record held by 2008 Colorado Rockies draft pick and former Pacer standout Chad Jacobsen, who finished the 2008 season with 80 RBIs.

The Bonneau, S.C. native finished the first game with only one RBI, but he followed that up by finishing with four RBis in game two to obtain the single season record. Howard emphatically claimed the record by blasting a grand slam to left centerfield in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The four-run jack by Howard left him ending Saturday’s twinbill with 83 RBIs currently in 2009. Howard overall ended the second game with three hits, three runs scored and the four RBIs.

Howard was the not the only one to secure a record on Saturday as the Pacers as a team broke the school record for most consecutive wins. The Pacers have reeled off 13 straight to break the longstanding record of 12 consecutive games won by the 1992 Pacers.

The Pacers tied the school record for most consecutive home wins at 10 in Thursday’s 13-2 win over Benedict, but the two wins over the Bearcats on Saturday left them in sole possession with 12 straight home victories.

USC Aiken has now won 17 of its last 18 and 23 of its last 26 contests.

The nationally-ranked Pacers have also now laid claim to a league series victory in six consecutive league three-game sets. USC Aiken has now taken league series wins from Georgia Southwestern, GCSU, Columbus State, Armstrong Atlantic State and Augusta State and Lander.

The Pacers have swept the Pirates and Jaguars over the course of the last two weekends and they will be trying to do the same this weekend in Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale against the Bearcats at the ‘Bert.

USC Aiken’s doubleheader sweep of the Bearcats on Saturday extended their series winning streak against Lander to eight straight games. The Pacers swept league series from Lander in 2007 and 2008.

Though the Pacers found it easy to net runs in the two games on Saturday, the USC Aiken pitching staff more than held up their end of the bargain the two-game sweep.

In the first game, Jason Cochcroft (Gilbert, S.C./Gilbert) pitched beautifully in his eight innings on the hill for the Pacers. Cochcroft struck out three and allowed just seven hits to improve to a team-best 7-1 in the 2009 season.

Cochcroft has now picked up a win in seven of his last eight outings with only one of the eight outings resulting in a no decision. He has not lost a game in which he toed the rubber since Feb. 22

Justin Fry (Augusta, Ga./Darton) made sure that all of Cochcroft’s efforts would not go to waste as he pitched a scoreless ninth.

In the second game, Clayton Knight (Goose Creek, S.C./Limestone) moved back to .500 on the year by pitching masterfully in eight innings of work. Knight fanned 10 batters in the game to tie a season high for himself that he originally set in a game with nationally-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne.

Knight joins Fry for the team-high in the category in 2009. Fry set down 10 batters in a game with nationally-ranked North Georgia on Feb. 21.

Neil Brown (Gardendale, Ala./NW Shoals CC) matched Fry’s effort in game one by pitching a scoreless ninth in the second game.

Offensively, Jamie Benjamin (Alpharetta, Ga./Southern Union CC) guided the Pacers in the first game with a 3-for-5 performance at the dish. Teammate Alex Franklin (North Augusta, S.C./North Augusta) was a perfect 2-for-2 in the first game, scoring two runs and collecting two RBIs.

Stephen Carmon (Camden, S.C./Camden) was the show in the second game on offense along with Howard with the freshman hitting his first tater as a Pacer in the game. He was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored in the second game overall.

Ken Raborn (Evans, Ga./Evans) was the final Pacer to hit a home run in the second game with Raborn belting his eighth of the year in the contest.