FLORENCE, S.C. – The 24th-ranked UNC Pembroke baseball team sent its entire order to the plate in a key 5-run fifth inning and got a clutch relief performance from Hank Simpson as the Braves worked well into the night to upset second-ranked and top-seeded North Georgia, 8-5, in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 PBC Tournament on Thursday evening at Francis Marion’s Sparrow Stadium.
It was the 23rd victory in the last 26 outings for the Braves (39-13) who advance through to Friday’s semifinal round where they will take on the winner of the 10 a.m. elimination contest between second-seeded USC Aiken (39-12) and sixth-seeded Flagler (29-23). The setback snapped an 11-game winning streak for the Nighthawks (41-9) who will face eighth-seeded Georgia Southwestern (20-28) in a 1:30 p.m. elimination contest on Friday.
Thursday evening’s victory was the third of the season for UNCP against the league’s regular season champions, including a series victory earlier this season in Pembroke. The Black & Gold has now captured nine of the last 12 matchups in the series in games played away from Dahlonega, Ga.
Thursday’s contest, which spanned 4 hours and 14 minutes from first pitch to last out, ended at 1:45 a.m. on Friday morning.
Nick Salisbury drove in a pair of runs and scored once on a perfect 2-for-2 night at the plate to pace the Black & Gold, while Alex Simpson hit a clutch RBI single in the decisive fifth inning and later scored to highlight a 2-for-2 showing as well. Nick Debo doubled and scored three times on a 2-for-4 performance at the dish.
Steven Tomlinson (2 RBI) and Conner Corbitt (2 R) both tallied 3-for-5 nights to lead North Georgia.
Dale Masterson (3-0) recorded the final out in the fifth inning to grab his third victory of the season, but the night belonged to Hank Simpson who struck out six and yielded just one hit in four scoreless innings of work on the way to notching his fifth save of the campaign. Dylan Peppers (7-3), a first team all-conference selection, walked nine batters and allowed four hits and six earned runs in 4-2/3 innings of work to saddle the loss for the Nighthawks.
The Braves scratched the scoreboard first on Salisbury’s two-run single in the third, but the Nighthawks pushed runs across on the three-straight at-bats in the top of the fourth to steal back the momentum. North Georgia made it a 5-2 game in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Tomlinson, coupled with a bases-loaded walk minutes later.
UNCP would retake the momentum in the home half of the fifth, however, scoring five times on four hits, two walks and a pair of costly errors by the Nighthawks. Jarratt Mobley got the scoring started on a sac fly to right field, and the Black & Gold added another run on a RBI single from Alex Simpson, as well as a botched fielding attempt in centerfield. Simpson stole home to put the Braves out in front, 6-5, and River Ryan hit a two-out RBI double to bring home Salisbury from second base.
Debo drew a one-out walk in the eighth, stole second base and eventually scored on a wild pitch to hand UNCP an insurance run in the eighth.