AIKEN, S.C. – Continuing the record-breaking weekend, Ken Raborn became the all-time leader in home runs in school history and 14th-ranked USC Aiken captured its third consecutive Peach Belt Conference series sweep with an 11-6 victory on Sunday afternoon before a school record crowd of 1,316 fans at Roberto Hernandez Stadium.
The victory on Sunday is USC Aiken’s school record 14th straight. The Pacers are now 33-14 on the 2009 season, including 16-8 in the Peach Belt Conference.
The series sweep of Lander gives the Pacers a one-game lead in the PBC regular season standings entering their final league series of the year against UNC Pembroke in Pembroke, N.C.
The Pacers entered the weekend down a game to eighth-ranked Georgia College & State in the PBC standings, but their three-game sweep coupled with UNC Pembroke taking two of three from GCSU in Pembroke this weekend has the Pacers clinging to the regular season lead by a game.
USC Aiken’s PBC series sweep of Lander leaves the Pacers having taken all games of a three-game set from Armstrong Atlantic State, Augusta State and Lander over the course of the past three weekends. Overall, USC Aiken has claimed a series win in its last six PBC series, besting Georgia Southwestern, GCSU and Columbus State the three weeks prior to the three-game sweeps of the Pirates, Jaguars and Bearcats.
The Pacers are currently undefeated in the month of April with their last loss coming in the first game of their series with Columbus State in Columbus, Ga. on Mar. 29.
The Pacers have won 18 of their last 19 overall and 24 of their last 27. At the conclusion of the series sweep of the Bearcats, USC Aiken has also now acquired a school record 13 straight home games to go along with the 14 straight overall.
USC Aiken’s three-game sweep of the Bearcats gives USC Aiken three straight league sweeps of the Bearcats with USC Aiken taking the three-game set between the two in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The Pacers hold a 24-12 all-time series advantage now.
Raborn (Evans, Ga./Evans) entered Sunday’s series finale tied with Ashley Farr (2002-04) for most home runs in school history with 34.
With the Pacers down 4-0 to the Bearcats in the bottom of the fourth inning, the senior do-it-all man for the Pacers almost single-handedly brought the Pacers back into the game. He started the fourth off for the Pacers by breaking the record on a home run to centerfield on a solo shot.
The solo jack would be the first of three runs for the Pacers in the frame. Chris Grandinetti (Broomfield, Colo./Broomfield) shortly after Raborn’s solo shot drove in two to cut the Bearcat lead to one at 4-3.
The Pacers would then tie the game at 4-4 one inning later when Raborn hit his second home run of the game. The home run would be Raborn’s 10th of 2009 and the 36th of his career. Raborn’s second home run of the contest also tied a long-standing record of most home runs in a game by a Pacer. Raborn is one of 34 Pacers to accomplish the feat. No Pacer has ever hit three in a contest.
The two records obtained by Raborn on Sunday will more than likely be joined by another in the coming days as Raborn is only four hits away from eclipsing Farr for most hits as a Pacer. Farr ended his stellar career with 269, while Raborn currently has 266 in his career.
Lander would post a run of their own in the top of the sixth stanza to take back the lead at 5-4, but the Pacers would not let that lead last as they outscored Lander 7-1 in the final three innings to take the emphatic five-run win.
The Pacers would blow the game wide open in the bottom of the seventh with five runs off of newly inserted Lander pitcher David Glover. John Sherrer (LaGrange, Ga./LaGrange) netted the final two runs of the frame for USC Aiken when he doubled to right center to score Grandinetti and Jamie Benjamin (Alpharetta, Ga./Southern Union CC), who had doubled in Nick Aranas (Lexington, S.C./Lexington) earlier in the stanza.
USC Aiken would add two more in the bottom of the eighth when program RBI king Travis Howard (Bonneau, S.C./USC Salkehatchie) doubled in Raborn and Alex Franklin (North Augusta, S.C./North Augusta). Howard, who broke the school RBI record with a grand slam in USC Aiken’s second game win over Lander, now has 85 RBIs in 2009.
Jeremy Smith (Minter, Ala./Southern Union CC) pitched the final four and two-thirds to collect the win from the hill for USC Aiken. Smith took over for starter Steven Spire (Swansea, S.C./Swansea), who left after pitching the first three and a third.
Smith (6-3) allowed just four hits and two runs in his time on the hill.
The Lander closer, Glover was saddled with the loss for the Bearcats. Glover gave up seven earned runs in his one and a third innings on the rubber. He was one of four Lander pitchers on the day.
USC Aiken and Lander both had 13 hits in the game.
Raborn as noted guided the Pacers offensively on the day, finishing as one of four Pacers with multiple hits. Raborn was the only Pacer to record three hits as he was 3-for-4 with four runs scored and two RBIs.
Jeff Caskey was a perfect 4-for-4 with four runs scored and an RBI for Lander.