SAINT LEO, Fla. – Things looked very promising for the Saint Leo baseball team after the very first pitch on Friday evening as leadoff hitter Kyle Hobbs deposited the ball over the right-centerfield wall, but the joy was short-lived as the visiting Valdosta State Blazers smacked five round-trippers of their own to earn a 13-6 win at Southard Stadium.
Hobbs’ blast in the bottom of the first was answered by two solo homers from the Blazers to lead off the second and the third innings. Saint Leo responded in the bottom of the third to drop a three-spot on VSU as the Lions played small ball and capitalized on some Blazer miscues to retake the lead.
The biggest play of the third inning came from the Lions’ shortstop Bobby Munoz as he ripped a two-run triple to right-centerfield. Third baseman Aaron McLamar followed Munoz’s hit with a RBI single to left-center that put the Lions up 4-2.
VSU responded with a lone run in the top of the fourth that brought the Blazers to within a run, but a leadoff single by Dustin Brown in the bottom of the frame saw the Lions get back up by two when Kyle Hobbs shot a RBI single through the right side.
The fifth inning was where the Lions ran into problems as Valdosta State’s Clayton Cain ripped a long homerun down the right field line that just stayed fair to again bring the Blazers to within a run. After the next batter doubled off of Saint Leo starter Caleb Fuddy, the Lions’ coaching staff brought in Eric Nickolaison who had trouble with the VSU hitters, including Brandon Decker, who blasted a three-run shot in nearly the same place Cain’s ball fell.
After the six run fifth inning, the Lions tried to answer, scoring a single run in the bottom of the frame, but they would have their bats quieted by reliever Thomas Tripp, who tossed almost three full innings of one-hit ball to close out the win.
The Blazers would cushion the lead in the eighth when Chase Blackwood hit a three-run shot to straightaway centerfield that put the game at its final 13-6 margin.
Fuddy did not factor in the decision as he left the game with a 5-4 lead and a runner on in the fifth, which gave Nickolaison (0-1) the loss, his first of the year.
Matt Costello (2-0) picked up the win for VSU, going 6.1 innings, allowing six runs (five earned) and 14 hits. Although the hit total was the Lions’ highest of the season, Costello managed the game well and got outs when he needed them the most as the Green & Gold left 11 runners on base.
Six Valdosta batters posted multiple hits as Blackwood led the way with a 4-for-6 night with four RBI. Austin Smith also had a nice night for VSU as he went 3-for-6 with two runs scored.
Hobbs was the star for Saint Leo as he went 4-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored for the Lions. Lions’ Left-fielder Eugene Garnett went 2-for-3 as well, but all in the losing effort.
Saint Leo can still get a series win against Valdosta State as the two teams square off tomorrow in doubleheader action from Thomas B. Southard Stadium on the Saint Leo campus. The first game will also be carried live on the Saint Leo Lions AudioCast Network, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:00 p.m.