LAKELAND, Fla. – Despite 6.1 strong innings from Lions’ starter Matt Smith, the Saint Leo baseball team (13-14, 2-5 SSC) fell in their Sunshine State Conference series opener to the No. 1-ranked Florida Southern College Moccasins (23-2, 3-1) 7-1, Friday evening from Henley Field.
The Lions tallied the first run of the ballgame on a second inning RBI single from Jovanni Fiallo. Unfortunately, seven unanswered runs over the course of the next seven innings gave FSC a 1-0 series advantage.
The Lions' lead stood up until the Moccasins' fifth inning, when Florida Southern’s Tony Mitchell hit a two-run homer to right center to give the hosts the advantage on the scoreboard.
The top-ranked Mocs saw the game fall into their favor when Andrew Grutka drove in a run in the sixth on a fielder's choice, and then Florida Southern put together five straight hits in the seventh to produce four runs.
Max Russell pitched the first seven innings to earn his sixth win without a loss. He gave up just five hits, only one after the third inning, struck out 12 and walked one. Ryan Wolfe and Patrick Szczerba each pitched a scoreless inning in relief.
For the Lions, Matt Smith (4-4) pitched six strong innings, but the Moccasins got to the junior in the seventh inning as he was strapped with the opening-game loss. He surrendered five runs to the No. 1 Mocs on just six hits. He also struck out six Florida Southern batters.
Saint Leo centerfielder Ware Hart posted the Lions' best performance of the evening as he went 2-for-4 in an SLU lineup that managed just six hits.
The Lions and Mocs will face each other in doubleheader action tomorrow afternoon as they close out the SSC-series at Henley Field. Game one will get underway at 2:00 p.m.