SAINT LEO, Fla. – It was another night of frustration for the Saint Leo baseball team as a single swing of the bat made up all the difference in a 5-2 loss to Eckerd College in the Lions’ home opener on Thursday evening.
The Lions (0-5), behind pitcher JC Suarez, saw just one run cross the plate through the first four innings. That lone run, a RBI single by Triton shortstop Matt Heller in the third inning, would give Eckerd (3-3) the lead into the fifth.
In the top of the fifth, Suarez ran into trouble after getting two quick outs. After two batters reached base, the Lions’ coaching staff decided to go to their bullpen and turned to senior Reid Tilson to get Saint Leo out of the jam. Unfortunately for Tilson, an errant pitch to his first batter was blasted over the left-centerfield wall by Eckerd’s Dan Branca, opening up a 4-0 lead for the Tritons.
EC would add another run in the top of the eighth inning before Saint Leo would try to rally.
In the bottom of the frame, the Lions led the inning off with consecutive hits putting men at the corners and no outs. Saint Leo saw both runs come across the plate after errors by the Tritons’ third baseman. The errors, along with two fly-ball outs, saw the situation end up with the bases loaded and two out. Even though it felt like momentum was finally on the Lions’ side, a hard-hit ball by Jonathan Duncan found the glove of the Eckerd centerfielder for the inning’s final out.
The final rally for the Green & Gold saw the Lions get two runners on with two outs in the ninth inning, but with the tying run at the plate, senior Bobby Munoz popped out to second to end the game.
It was a game of missed opportunities for Saint Leo; none bigger than when the Lions had two on and no outs in the seventh inning and looked to strike. A deep fly ball from the bat of Duncan was lofted into right-centerfield and was barely snagged, on the run, by the Triton centerfielder Chris Clinton. The base runners, thinking that the ball was not going to be caught, took off running and only Eugene Garnett was able to use his speed to get back to first while the Tritons doubled-up Anthony Santa at second.
Eckerd saw four batters post multiple hits as they notched 11 as a team. Branca had a night for Eckerd, going 2-for-3 with a run scored and three RBI from that fifth-inning round tripper.
The Lions saw Suarez go 2-for-4 while also taking care of pitching duties and freshman Dustin Brown go 2-for-3. Both players crossed the plate in the loss.
Joey Cuda (2-1) tossed six innings for the Tritons only allowing four hits and four walks while striking out five Lions.
Suarez (0-1) picked up his first decision, albeit a negative one, going 4.2 innings allowing three runs on four hits and walking five Tritons.
Saint Leo will still be looking for their first win of the season as they begin a three-game series with Valdosta State University on Friday. The first game is set to get underway at 7:00 p.m. at Thomas B. Southard Stadium on the Saint Leo campus. The game will also be carried live on the Saint Leo Lions AudioCast Network