SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo baseball team saved their two most thrilling games for the final series of the 2009 season as an Anthony Santa RBI-double in the bottom of the 10th inning pushed the Lions past Florida Tech 9-8 on Senior Day in Sunshine State Conference action at Thomas B. Southard Stadium.
After the Senior Day ceremonies that saw the Lions recognize seven graduating seniors, all seeing action in the game, Saint Leo started the game in familiar fashion, staring at a big deficit early.
The visiting Panthers jumped on starting pitcher Jeff Bloomer and tapped him for seven runs in the first three innings. Although Bloomer was roughed up, only three runs were earned as an error early in the first inning help the visitors from Melbourne, Fla. score four runs before SLU had a chance to bat.
Florida Tech had the Lions staring at a 7-0 deficit as the game headed into the bottom of the third inning where Saint Leo would finally get on the scoreboard.
Kyle Hobbs started the scoring with a one-out solo homer over the left-field wall and Dustin Brown followed that with a two-on, two-out RBI single up the middle to close the gap to 7-2.
After relief pitcher Jamie Tutko sat the Tech batters down in order in the top of the fourth, the Lions plated three more in the bottom of the frame with the biggest hit coming from the stick of Jason Hamm, who launched a two-run shot over the left-field wall to make the score 7-4. A Bobby Munoz double later in the frame and a Jonathan Duncan RBI single up the middle that scored Munoz had the score at 7-5.
After struggling for a majority of the year, the Saint Leo bullpen did a stellar job of shutting down the Florida Tech batters as they only allowed a single run in 7.1 innings of work. That lone run came across in the top of the fifth inning when a throwing error in an attempt to catch a Florida Tech player trying to swipe second base, sailed wide and allowed the runner to advance to home, increasing the deficit back to three runs.
The Lions would again strike for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on a single swing of Dustin Brown’s bat. A two-on, two-out fastball was smacked deep over the left-field wall and tied the game at eight, where it would stay into extras.
The Lions avoided disaster in two consecutive innings as Florida Tech put men in scoring position in the ninth and tenth innings, both times with less than two out, but the calm performance of senior reliever Reid Tilson helped to get Saint Leo out of trouble both times.
After yesterday’s extra-inning heroics from Dale Slimick, the Lions looked to be in prime position for the win as he led off the bottom of the tenth, but instead of a game-ending homer, he would rip a single through the right-side to get on base as the potential winning run. Hamm would sacrifice him to second base and then Head Coach Russ McNickle would make the coaching move of the day as he would replace a struggling Bryan Davis, who was 0-for-4, with Anthony Santa.
Santa dug in and watched a few pitches, then he smacked a long fly ball to deep center that the Florida Tech centerfielder could not track down. The ball hit the bottom of the wall and bounced toward the onrushing Panther. While this was occurring at the wall, Slimick was torn on whether to tag up, or to just run. He would choose the latter.
Waived on by McNickle, Slimick rounded third in a full sprint toward home. He would make it home easily, just a few steps before the throw reached the plate. As he crossed the plate for the final time, Slimick, hands raised in celebration, would be mobbed by his teammates who would then take the celebration toward Santa, who was rushing in from second base.
The Lions had managed to wrap up their 2009 campaign in a most thrilling fashion, winning two of their final three games in extra innings, and sending their seven seniors out in style.