WINTER PARK, Fla. – The Saint Leo baseball team opened their Sunshine State Conference series against Rollins College in impressive fashion with a 7-5 win on Friday night from Rollins’ Alfond Stadium.
Opening the game with single runs in the first, Rollins (26-22, 5-14 SSC) took the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a run-scoring double but the Lions would answer with solo runs in the next two innings.
The fourth inning saw Saint Leo (18-29, 6-16 SSC) draw even when Dustin Brown shot a base hit through the infield to score Chris Newcomb. It was another run that Newcomb would score after getting hit by a pitch and reaching base, a carbon copy of his run in the first.
In the fifth, the Lions capitalized on back-to-back walks with two outs and then Ryan Brnovich earned the first of his two RBI on a single through the right side of the infield that scored Nick Gil.
As both starting pitchers began to tire in the late innings, the bats came to life for both teams with a total of seven combined runs score in the final three frames, but it was a defensive play in the bottom of the seventh that may have kept the Lions on top.
With a Rollins runner already across the plate and two Tars in scoring position, a base hit would’ve given host the lead, but Brown in his spot in right field, hustled to a trailing foul ball. Catching up the ball just in time, he would slide and catch it to end the inning.
Holding a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth, the Saint Leo bullpen surrendered two quick runs as the first two Rollins batters reached base. Both would score as the host Tars pounded out three hits in the frame to tie the score at five.
Saint Leo would answer the two runs from the Tars with a two-spot of their own in the top of the ninth. Kory Wan led off with a sharply hit single to right center field and the Brnovich would lay down a beautiful base-hit bunt along the third base line that would put two Lions on with no outs.
After a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to load the bases, the Lions first try at a run would come up short when Wan was thrown out at home. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Tars’ sixth walk of the night was the most crucial as Jason Hamm earned the free pass to put the Lions back on top. A Frank Rawdow single allowed the Lions to add an insurance run heading in the bottom of the frame.
With Austin Buck in to close out the game, the final play, with a runner on first and an out on the board, went the Lions’ way. A shot up the middle deflected off of Buck’s glove and went directly to shortstop Ryan Powers, who grabbed it, touched second and threw to first to complete the double play and put the period on the game.
Brnovich would end up going 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored as he improved his batting average to .407 with just two games left in the season. Brown would also go 2-for-5 with two RBI and the impressive catch.
Henry Johnson (2-1) picked up the win after the Lions took the lead during his time on the hill. Buck earned his second save of the season.
The Tars’ Garrent Yount (5-4), who struggled in just two-thirds of an innings, was saddled with the loss.
It proved the be an unusual game as the Tars outhit the Lions 12-to-7, but three Rollins’ errors, six walks and three hit batters hurt the hosts in the loss.
Both teams will continue the SSC series tomorrow with doubleheader action. The Lions will conclude their 2011 season looking for their second-straight SSC series win with game one gets underway at 3:00 p.m. in Winter Park.