The USC Beaufort baseball team ran its season-best winning streak to five games Friday, beating Ave Maria 10-6 in the opener of a three-game Sun Conference series at Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville.
Junior Erik Armstrong went 2 for 5 with four RBIs and designated hitter Ryan Walker went 4 for 4 to raise his batting average to a team-best .359. Walker also scored twice to help the Sand Sharks (21-18 overall, 11-11 Sun) solidify their standing in the race for one of the six spots in the conference tournament.
The loss ended Ave Maria's winning streak at five games.
USCB leadoff man J.J. Crespo was 3 for 5, and Blake Cilwick and Ryan Doeppel each had two hits for USCB, which moved a game ahead of Thomas for sixth place in the league standings. The Sand Sharks are 1 1/2 games behind fifth-place Southeastern, which played at Northwood on Friday night.
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Senior Miles Galvin (3-5) earned the win, allowing six runs -- three earned -- on nine hits over six innings. The Sand Sharks put Galvin in line for the win with a three-run sixth inning, as they loaded the bases with the help of a Gyrenes error, and Armstrong cleared them with a three-run double down the left-field line.
Senior Andrew Barrineau made sure the lead held up, working three scoreless innings for his team-leading fourth save.
The Sand Sharks got off to a hot start, as Walker, Armstrong and Brandon Joyce ripped consecutive RBI doubles in the first for a 3-0 lead, but a 20-minute lightning delay at the end of the inning slowed the momentum.
The Gyrenes (31-16, 14-8) answered with three runs in the second and one in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead, but USCB answered in the fourth. Crespo singled home a run and took second on an error, then came around to score the tying run on Cilwick's RBI double. Terry McClinton's RBI single gave USCB a 6-5 lead after four.
A USCB error allowed the Gyrenes to tie it in the sixth, but Armstrong's big hit in the bottom of the inning put the Sand Sharks ahead for good. Mitchell Johnson added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
The series concludes with a doubleheader starting at noon Saturday.
Notes: USCB pitchers did not issue a walk Friday, marking the second time this season they have not walked a batter. ... Cilwick has hit safely in seven straight games and 20 of his last 21. ... USCB leads the all-time series with Ave Maria, 6-1, and has won all four contests at Richard Gray Sports Complex.