COLUMBUS, Ga. – Freshman pinch hitter Vinny Rodriguez (Birmingham, Ala./Shades Valley) lofted an RBI double to deep right center field to score senior Josh Headley (Gardendale, Ala./Gardendale) with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning as the University of Montevallo made its Peach Belt Conference Tournament debut a successful one with a 5-4 victory over 13th-ranked USC Aiken, Wednesday morning (May 9).
The eight-team double-elimination tournament is being played at 5,000-seat Golden Park in downtown Columbus, Ga.
Montevallo (25-26), the West Division's second seed, advances to face the Armstrong Atlantic State University/North Georgia College & State University winner on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. USCA (34-17), the East Division's third seed, meets the AASU/North Georgia loser at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Headley began the winning sequence with a one-out single through the right side. Rodriguez then took the third pitch from Pacer reliever Jake Padgett and drove it onto the warning track just in front of the fence some 390 feet from home plate.
Falcons' closer Wes Rich (Pelham, Ala./Pelham) (4-3) earned the win with 1.2 scoreless innings. USCA reliever Tyler Stephan (1-1), who preceded Padgett, was tagged with the loss.
The Falcons took a 4-0 advantage with four runs in the bottom of the third, thanks in part to some wildness from USCA starter Ryan Milewski. A pair of hit batters and a single loaded the bases with no outs. Sophomore Will Fulmer (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) scored the game's first run when Milewski uncorked a wild pitch that went to the backstop. Designated hitter Chris Ross (Pelham, Ala./Jefferson State C.C.) then hooked a 1-0 offering into the right field corner for a two-run double.
Ross moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and then came home with the fourth run of the frame on a sacrifice fly to center by senior Blaine Rosenberg (Birmingham, Ala./Furman University).
The Pacers crept to within 4-1 in the top of the fifth. Left fielder Nick Aranas was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to third on a single by designated hitter Bill Gerstenslager. Aranas then scored as the Falcons turned a double play on a ground ball to short by Ty Barkell.
USCA cut the margin to 4-3 by scoring twice in the sixth without the benefit of a hit. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases with two outs. With Gerstenslager at the plate, Pacer leadoff batter Bryce Baur scored on a wild pitch and a handful of pitches later Will Tankersley scampered home on Michael Shreves' (Bradenton, Fla./State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota) second wild offering of the at bat.
Montevallo senior Kirk Waligora (Hartland, Mich./Lambuth University) saved a run in the top of the eighth with a diving catch in deep center field off the bat of the speedy Stephen Carmon. The catch prevented a sure lead-off triple. However the next Pacer batter, catcher Josh Miller, knotted the score at 4-4 with a towering solo home run to left that chased Shreves from the contest.
The Falcons threatened in the last of the eighth, but junior Austin Dubberly (Helena, Ala./Pelham) was tagged out at home on a safety squeeze attempt. Dubberly singled to center with one out and moved to third on a single by Rosenberg that was errored on in left field.
USCA took its initial lead with a manufactured run in the top of the ninth. Gerstenslager singled to left center and was replaced by pinch runner Dylan Durham, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a fly ball to center, and then came home on an RBI single through the right side by third baseman J.J. Loker.
However, Montevallo answered with a manufactured tally of its own in the bottom of the ninth. Junior Vincente Andrews (Phenix City, Ala./Chattahoochee Valley C.C.) walked with one out and was removed for pinch runner Zack Willoughby (Boaz, Ala./Boaz), who advanced to third on a single by Heath Peterson (Phenix City, Ala./Chattahoochee Valley C.C.) and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Ross. Willoughby beat the relay throw home with a head-first slide to the outside part of home plate.
Dubberly (2-for-4) and Gerstenslager (2-for-3) were the lone batters to record multi-hits.