Lions split twinbill and take series from #23 Fla. Southern

Lions split twinbill and take series from #23 Fla. Southern

SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo baseball took a split out of Sunday's season-ending Sunshine State Conference doubleheader against No. 23 Florida Southern, giving the Lions the regular series victory over the Mocs for the first time since 2013.

Chase Turner's two-out single up the middle in the bottom of the 10th inning off Florida Southern reliever Cameron Hanes scored pinch runner Will Gray from third, and lifted Saint Leo to a 10-9 walk off victory in game two against the Mocs.

The walk-off victory was Saint Leo's second of the series against Florida Southern – with both coming off Moc closer Hanes, who began the weekend with 10 saves and a 0.79 ERA over 22.2 innings pitched.

Game two was highlighted by a pair of hits for Alex Mata, giving the fifth-year senior 271 hits for his career and possession of Saint Leo's all-time hits record.

In the first game, Florida Southern had six home runs, including three in the top of the first inning, in an 11-5 win over Saint Leo.

Saint Leo finished the 2017 regular season with a 23-26 overall record, 8-16 in the SSC.

GAME 1

Florida Southern's Cody Burgess, Pablo Cabrera, and Mitch Reeves all hit home runs in the first inning to give the Mocs a 4-0 lead, before Saint Leo answered with a two-run home run by Dylan Harris in the bottom of the first to cut the margin to 4-2.

The Mocs extended their lead to 6-2 in the second inning, and stretched the advantage to 9-2 in the third on a solo home run by Reeves and a two-run double by Kevin Fuller.

Back-to-back solo home runs by Omar Villaman and Reeves in the ninth capped Florida Southern's scoring for the game.

The Lions scratched out single runs in the fifth, eighth, and ninth innings. A.J. Rainaldi belted his first collegiate home run in the ninth with a one-out shot to center field.

Harris finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate with two singles to go with the round-tripper in the first inning, along with one run scored and three runs batted in. Lane Stancil had a pair of singles and one run scored. Four different Saint Leo pitchers saw action in the game, with starter Eoin McAvinchey getting the loss.

GAME 2

Saint Leo held an 8-1 lead after two innings and stretched that to a 9-1 advantage after six complete, before Florida Southern began chipping away at the Lions' lead and eventually forcing extra innings.

The game started out with a highlight moment four seasons in the making as Mata, hitting in the leadoff spot, stroked an infield single to second base for his 270th career hit to secure the Saint Leo career hits record. Mata eclipsed the previous mark of 269, which was jointly held by Trevor Hall (1999-2002) and Matt Gifford (1994-98).

Mata eventually scored on Chad Miller's double to right center for the first of Saint Leo's two runs in the frame; Miller crossed later in the inning on a Williams grounder to short.

The Lions exploded for six runs in the second inning on a walk, a Moc error, and five hits, including a two-run single to center field by Mata for hit no. 271 in his career ledger. An RBI single by Miller, a run-scoring double from Harris, and a two-run belt to right center off the bat of Williams provided the additional Saint Leo run support.

Saint Leo stretched its lead to 9-1 in the fifth inning on a RBI single from Mike Mann, while starter Jordan Pendleton retired Florida Southern in order in the fifth and sixth innings to protect the lead.

The Mocs began chipping away at the Lions' lead with two runs in the seventh on a two-run double by Burgess. Florida Southern cut the Saint Leo lead to 9-7 with a four-run uprising in the eighth, with two-run home runs by Logan Browning and Christian Maglich.

Florida Southern tied the game at 9-9 in the top of the ninth with Mauer's two-run home run to right field. Saint Leo loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth on singles by Harris and Williams followed by an intentional pass issued to Zach Scott, but Moc reliever Hanes induced a pop-up to first base to quash the Lions' effort to win the game in regulation.

The Mocs were unable to take advantage of a lead-off single in the 10th inning, stranding the runner at second.

The Lions opened their half of the frame with walk to Mann and a single through the left side by Stancil. A one-out fly ball to right field allowed Gray, pinch running for Mann, to advance to third, and Turner gave the Lions the hard-earned victory with a single up the middle to bring home Gray.

The win was the Lions' fifth win this season over a nationally-ranked opponent.

Mata and Miller each finished the game with two hits and two RBI, while Williams tallied two hits and three runs batted in.

Harris, a redshirt junior, also charted two hits in the win, and finished the 2017 season with 99 hits – the most by a Saint Leo player in a single season since Brian Krot's 102 hits in 1999. He also concluded his third season with Saint Leo baseball with 257 career hits.

Pendleton pitched masterfully over 6.1 innings, scattering seven hits and striking out five Moc batters, with 63 of his 93 pitches thrown for strikes. Senior Zach Whitaker earned the win in relief after his 2.1 innings on the mound. Senior Dan Twitty also saw 1.1 innings of work in the seventh and eighth innings.

Florida Southern's Sierra finished with three hits for the Mocs, while Cabrera, Mauer, and JP DeBoyer each had two hits.

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