AIKEN, S.C. – Senior right-hander Justin Fry pitched a near complete game allowing only two runs and three hits to lift fifth-ranked and top-seeded USC Aiken to a 7-2 win over seventh-ranked and second-seeded Francis Marion University on Saturday night in an elimination game at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Baseball Tournament.
USCA (42-18) advances forward to play unbeaten (in tournament play) and sixth-seeded Belmont Abbey College in Sunday’s championship game at 11 a.m. In the championship round of the 2009 NCAA Division II Southeast Region a second championship game would be played if USCA wins that 11 a.m. contest.
The Pacers will be playing in their second consecutive NCAA Regional championship round. They will be vying to make their first NCAA Division II College World Series appearance since 1993.
Francis Marion, which had its 17-game winning streak snapped earlier in the day by Belmont Abbey, ends its season at 38-15-1, the second-most wins in program history.
Fry (4-3) scattered the three hits in his 8.1 innings on the hill. He threw 178 pitches, struck out seven and walked seven. FMU stranded 12 runners, including leaving the bases loaded twice.
Francis Marion’s Barrett Kleinknecht (1-3) made his first start of the year and pitched a complete game, allowing nine hits and five earned runs in his eight innings. He tossed 120 pitches and struck out three.
Pacer right fielder Alex Franklin was the lone player in the contest with multiple hits as he went 2-for-5.
A solo homer to left by freshman outfielder Tyler Boyd gave Francis Marion a 1-0 cushion in the top of the third inning. The Patriots would go on to load the bases with no outs, but Fry struck out Jared Barkdoll and got Jacob Wallace and Keon Graves to pop out to strand the three base runners.
The Pacers responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame. Franklin plated the first run with an RBI groundout and second baseman Ken Raborn followed with a run-scoring single through the left side.
Frye and Kleinknecht matched zeros through the next two frames before USCA scored two unearned runs in the sixth to lead 4-1. An infield error helped lead to an RBI double by Jamie Benjamin and a second error allowed the fourth Pacer run to score.
USCA’s Nick Aranas added a solo homer and catcher John Sherrer hit a two-run shot in the eighth.
The Patriots plated one run in the ninth on a bases-loaded walk to Kleinknecht.