SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo baseball pounded out 18 hits, six of them home runs, and cruised to an 11-5 win over visiting West Alabama, in both teams season opener on Friday night at Thomas B. Southard Stadium.
The season opening win was the fourth in a row for the Lions, who saw every player in the batting order finish the night with at least one hit versus the Tigers.
"We did what we thought we could do, and we think we can hit," said Saint Leo Head Coach Sean O'Connor. "Obviously, it's nice when you come out and hit six home runs, because you don't expect that ever, but fundamentally we're a good hitting team."
Newcomer Zach Scott accounted for two home runs – a solo shot to right field in the fourth off a fastball from West Alabama reliever Jonathan Porter, which was part of a four-spot for Saint Leo in the frame. Scott added a two-run belt to right in the fifth, this time off a Porter slider, when the Lions again put four runs up on the scoreboard.
Senior Dylan Harris, in his first at bat after missing the 2016 season due to injury, opened the scoring with a solo home run to left with one out in the first inning. Sophomore Brett Coffel homered to left center in the second, and senior Nick Boland followed up Mike Mann's leadoff single in the fourth with a two-run blast to give Saint Leo a 5-2 lead.
Sophomore Derek Gibree followed Scott's solo shot with a one-run belt of his own to left field, extending the Lions' lead to 7-2.
Saint Leo tacked on four runs in the fifth on a leadoff single by senior Shane Williams, a double off the bat of Mann, and a single by Boland - all backed up by Scott's two-run home run, which capped the Lions' scoring at 11 runs.
Taking advantage of the run support was junior Oscar Gordillo, who scattered 10 hits and gave up just four runs, all earned, in his first Saint Leo start. Gordillo allowed just six runners to advance past second over his seven innings of work, and allowed the hits to come in bunches in just three out of those seven frames.
"Oscar did what we wanted him to do: throw strikes, minimize big innings, and give up a run here-and-there and that's fine. If we can do that all year, we're going to win a lot of ball games because we can hit and we can play defense," said O'Connor.
"Tonight we walked one person, and we won 11-5. It's not a giant mystery," added O'Connor.
Freshman Blake Bodin came on in the eighth to finish out the win, fanning a pair of West Alabama hitters out of the nine batters he faced.
"We know Blake has a lot of confidence in himself. He's got a pretty good breaking ball and he throws strikes, and he does a lot of the stuff we've talked about doing as a staff," said O'Connor.
Both Gordillo and Bodin relied on the defense behind them to help keep the Tigers in check.
Gordillo caught one runner stealing and picked off another, while Mann threw out a baserunner attempting to steal second in the third inning. Harris showed all signs of successfully making the switch to center field, tracking down several fly balls to the fence. The middle infield tandem of Scott and Gibree played like they'd been working second and short together for years; a nifty flip from Scott to Gibree on a one-out grounder to the right side of the infield in the eighth inning put out the lead runner at second, and drew an appreciative reaction from the Saint Leo crowd.
"I didn't really have good balance, so I kind of just threw it up and trusted Gibs – I mean, he's got some of the best hands I've ever seen – and he caught it. It just worked out well," said Scott.
Mann finished the night with three hits, with a total of seven players charted two hits each. Scott paced the Lions with three RBI.
Nick Delgado led West Alabama with three hits, with Marcus Morrisette, Luke Phillips, and Brock Montgomery each collecting a pair. Tiger starter Evan Miller took the loss for his 3.1 innings of work; he allowed seven runs, all earned, on nine hits with no walks and no strikeouts.
Game two of the three-game series takes place on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 3:00 p.m. at Southard Stadium.
For more information on the Saint Leo baseball program, visit SaintLeoLions.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.