For the first time in recent Bryan Baseball history, the Lions hosted an opening weekend series in January. Despite the overcast skies and windy weather, the crowds were out to see Bryan take on the Screaming Eagles of Toccoa Falls.
Starting pitching ruled the weekend for the Lions as LJ Rowden opened the year for the Lions on the mound in Friday's 9-inning contest. Rowden went six strong innings, striking out 8, walking none and surrendering just 4 hits. Despite his efforts, Rowden was to receive the no-decision in the contest as transfer junior, Jose Hernandez, was superb out of the pen, giving the Lion offense time to mount a come back and win the game. The Lions offense was off to a slow start after taking an early lead in the 1st inning with 3 runs. The runs were bolstered by a Toccoa Falls starter, Zach Breeden who struggled to find the zone walking 4 in the first inning. A 2-out error, led to 2 more Bryan runs and the Lions had a 3-0 lead at the end of 1.
The Lion offense would be kept quiet until the bottom of the 7th inning, when they would tie the game at 4 apiece, following a pinch-hit single by junior outfielder Crandon Wallace. Not to be outdone, the Eagles would fight back in the top of the 8th with a lead-off single by Ronnie Stewart. Stewart was sacrificed to 2nd base where he scored when Toccoa freshman, Danny Turnbull singled him home with his first career hit.
The Toccoa lead wouldn't last long however as Bryan senior third baseman, Joey Underwood lead off the bottom of the 8th with a double off the top of the left center field wall. Bryan center-fielder, Kevin Roberts bunted Underwood to third base before junior transfer, Langston Calhoun batted Underwood home with a deep sacrifice fly to left field.
Hernandez recorded 3 quick outs in the top of the 9th for the Lions including a big strike out of Eagle leadoff hitter, AJ Mussler; setting up an opportunity for the Lions in the bottom of the 9th. Following a quick first out, Rhinehart hit a hard single to reach first for the Lions. Bryan's freshman catcher, Jesus Astudillo came to the plate next and worked a walk. On the final pitch to Astudillo, Rhinehart was off and moving to take third; placing the winning run 90 feet away as junior shortstop, Andrew Urbistondo came up with a chance to give his team their first win of the 2015 season. Urbistondo was up to the task and hit a hard single into the right-center field gap for the walk-off win, 6-5.
Saturday's two games were highlighted by dominant starting pitching in the form of Bryan sophomore, Chad Burrows and senior, Kenny Knudsen. Each would throw 5 innings, earning the win in each game of the double-header. Burrows recorded 4 strikeouts, 4 walks, just 1 hit and didn't give up a run in his work. Senior left hander, John Cain earned the save for the Lions, throwing the final two innings, striking out 2 and surrendering 1 run, which was unearned, following the lone error of the weekend by the Lion defense. Knudsen shone in his 2015 debut after moving to starter following a junior year spent as the Bryan closer. In his 5 innings of work, Knudsen struck out 8, walked 1, gave up 1 hit and 1 earned run on his way to recording the win.
The Lion offense was relatively quiet, despite threatening in several innings, all 9 runs on Saturday came in just 3 innings. 3 runs were mustered in the 5th inning of game 1 of the doubleheader off a bases clearing double by Kevin Roberts and a hard single by CJ Owens. The 3 runs were enough for the Lion sin game 1, taking the contest 3-1.
In Game 2 the Lions scored 3 in the 3rd inning and 3 in the 5th to take a 6-3 win. The Bryan offense recorded their most hits on the weekend with 10, led by Urbistondo who recorded 2 hits and a big 3 run home-run by junior outfielder Preston King. Cody Rhinehart and Urbistondo led the Lion offense on the weekend, each recording 5 hits.
With the sweep of the Eagles, the Lions start 3-0 for just the second time in Bryan baseball history. The Lions return to Senter Field next Friday as they take on the visiting Red Storm of the University of Rio Grande. The Friday doubleheader begins at 3 PM.