COLUMBUS, Ga. – Freshman reliever Chess Malone pitched 2.1 scoreless innings and allowed 11th-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University to escape with a 5-3 win over the University of Montevallo, Thursday afternoon (May 10) on the second day of the 2012 Peach Belt Conference Baseball Tournament.
Armstrong (38-13) advances to a winners' bracket game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Montevallo (25-27) falls into the losers' bracket where the Falcons will face USC Aiken on Friday at 9 a.m. USCA eliminated North Georgia College & State University 11-2 earlier on Thursday.
Malone earned his fourth save of 2012, while Armstrong starter Scott Strickland improves to 9-3. Strickland fanned eight and walked six in 6.2 innings.
Montevallo starter Alex Guilford (Montgomery, Ala./Alabama Christian Academy) (3-6) was tagged with the hard-luck loss as he allowed five runs, but only one was earned.
Catcher John Roberts and second baseman Will Thomas paced the Pirates with a pair of hits each, while second baseman Will Fulmer (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) and third baseman Andrew Hill (Helena, Ala./Pelham) both had two hits for the Falcons.
Armstrong manufactured its first run in the top of the fourth for a 1-0 lead. Roberts reached on a throwing error and advanced to second on the play. He moved to third on a groundout and came home on a successful safety squeeze bunt by Jones.
In the fifth, the Pirates pushed the lead to 4-0 on back-to-back nearly identical RBI infield singles by Jones and Thomas. Lead-off man Casey Maloney plated the third run of the frame with a single to right center field.
Montevallo dented the scoreboard, almost literally, as first baseman Heath Peterson (Phenix City, Ala./Chattahoochee Valley C.C.) blasted a 395-foot solo home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth to trim the margin to 4-1. It was his 14th round-tripper of the year. Later in the frame, left fielder Zack Willoughby (Boaz, Ala./Boaz) drilled an RBI-triple off the right field fence to make it a two-run contest at 4-2.
Both teams scratched singles tallies in the seventh – Armstrong on a 390-foot solo blast to left-center field by Chris Zittrouer and Montevallo on an RBI-single to right from designated hitter Chris Ross (Pelham, Ala./Jefferson State C.C.). The Pirates escaped further trouble in the bottom of the seventh when Malone entered the game and induced Blaine Rosenberg (Birmingham, Ala./Furman University) to line-out to second with two outs and the bases loaded.
Malone issued a lead-off walk in the eighth, but then coaxed a double play grounder back to the mound to wipe out the baserunner. He tossed a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning to close out the Pirate win.