Athens, Tenn. – The Bryan Lions Baseball Team had two mid-week contests to prepare for the No. 10 team in the nation, fellow Appalachian Athletic Conference opponent and neighboring school, Tennessee Wesleyan College.
Cumberland University traveled to Dayton, Tenn. on Tuesday, Mar. 22, and was sent home after a 5-3 win by Bryan. Midland University (Ne.) took their turn at the Lions on Thursday (Mar. 24) but couldn't handle Bryan's explosive offense as they went for 11 runs while the Warriors managed one run in the top of the eighth to prevent a blank. Hudson Clare (JR/Jacksonville, Fla.) led the way for the Lions going 2-for-3 at the plate for a team-high three RBI after belting two homeruns. Travis Moore (JR/Hastings, Mich.) secured his first win of the season after five innings of work from the mound. He surrendered only one hit, walked four, and had an impressive five strikeouts.
The stakes for the series on Friday and Saturday between the Lions and Bulldogs grew as the 2016 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Baseball Coaches' Top-25 Poll was released on Tuesday. Bryan improved three spots as they went from 23rd to 20th, and Tennessee Wesleyan took their first peek this season into the top-10 after moving from 12th to 10th.
Before Friday's game, the Bulldogs had won eight of their previous nine games and upset No. 8 Lindsey Wilson College (Ky., No. 7 at the time) and swept AAC foe Reinhardt University (Ga.), who was receiving votes at the time, in a three-game series. The Lions entered the first game of the series against the Bulldogs with a nine-game win streak, but the streak was cut short after Friday when Tennessee Wesleyan overwhelmed Bryan 6-1.
Jesus Astudillo (SO/Caracas, Venezuela) put the Lions on the scoreboard first in the top of the third with his fourth homerun of the year delivered over the center field fence on the first pitch tossed his way. Unfortunately it would be the only score for the Lions as they were held to only four more hits, while the Bulldogs produced 11 hits, all coming against Bryan's starter, Chris Sauve (JR/Mascouche, Quebec).
Tennessee Wesleyan leveled the score with one run in the bottom of the third with two back-to-back doubles to begin their at-bat. The Bulldogs dealt most of their damage in the bottom of the fourth when they took a 5-1 lead and continued to create separation with an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth frame. Tennessee Wesleyan held on for a 6-1 win to take a 1-0 edge in the series. Langston Calhoun (SR/Berkeley, Calif.) recorded two hits while Justin Morhardt (SO/Winsted, Conn.), Andrew Urbistondo (SR/Stockton, Calif.), and Astudillo each collected one hit apiece in the outing.
The Lions managed to outhit the Bulldogs 10-8 in the first game on Saturday, but the TWC home-team produced four runs compared to Bryan's three runs for a 4-3 decision and 2-0 lead in the series.
The Bulldogs controlled an early lead after jumping ahead 2-0 after the first. The Lions countered in the second to even up the score 2-2. Morhardt doubled to deep center in from the leadoff spot, and then Cameron Yoho (JR/Collierville, Tenn.) entered as a courtesy runner. Yoho took scoring position at third when Lake Burris (FR/Chatsworth, Ga.) grounded out. Brookes Jones (JR/Franklin,Tenn.) followed up with a ground out, but Yoho used his speed to make it home for the first run. Urbistondo fired a single up the middle and then made his way home after Astudillo doubled to deep left-center to make it 2-2.
Tennessee Wesleyan slipped ahead with a two-run lead after notching one run in the bottom of the third and one run in the bottom of the fifth. Things looked promising for Bryan in the top of the seventh when Jones singled down the left field line and advanced to third on a bobbled ball. Urbistondo came through with an RBI single to plate Jones and bring the Lions within one run of the Bulldogs, 4-3, with no outs. Prentice Young (JR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.) entered to pinch run for Urbistondo. TWC's pitcher handled the pressure applied by the Lions and took away all hopes after striking out three Bryan batters to seal a 4-3 win.
Urbistondo went a perfect 3-for-3 with one run scored and one RBI. Evan Speicher (SR/Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Calhoun each collected two hits, respectively. Jones went 1-for-3 with one run scored and one RBI. LJ Rowden (SR/Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) tossed 4.1 innings for the Lions and surrendered eights hits and four runs. Along the way, Rowden walked two and struck out four. Jose Hernandez (SR/Perth Amboy, N.J.) relieved for 1.2 innings and held the Bulldogs hitless with one strikeout.
Francisco Colin (SR/Las Vegas, Nev.) currently holds a 4-2 record this season after locking in the win in the final game of the series after pitching five innings and giving up six hits and five runs. He managed to walk four and strikeout six in his time on the mound as the Lions completed a 9-7 upset over the 10th ranked Bulldogs to make the series score 2-1.
The Lions didn't hesitate as they established an early three runs in the first. Preston King (SR/Kingston, Tenn.) singled to shallow left before advancing to second. Calhoun was walked, which put runners on first and second with one out. Morhardt plated King and sent Calhoun to third with a double down the right field line. Yoho entered as a courtesy runner for Morhardt, and was followed up by a sacrifice fly to right from Clare. The sac-fly scored Calhoun and advanced Yoho to third. Jones hit a grounder, but it was misplayed by Tennessee Wesleyan, allowing Yoho to put the Lions up 3-0. The Bulldogs answered back in compelling fashion with four runs in the bottom of the frame to regain the lead, 4-3.
In the top of the third, Morhardt took it upon himself to even the score out 4-4 with a homer over the left field fence on a 1-0 count. Bryan continued to light up in the top of fourth as Astudillo doubled to deep right and was scored by a single through the hole by Speicher. Speicher reached home on a single by King, making it a 6-4 Lions lead. Calhoun singled to shallow right, which put King in scoring position at third. King was able to punch in the final run of the inning to give the Lions a comfortable 7-4 advantage heading into the fifth.
Jones reached on a walk to begin the fifth and advanced to second on a stolen bag. Wallace was patient at the plate and reached first on a walk. Speicher cleared Jones and Wallace with a two RBI double, extending the Lions lead to 9-4 before the Bulldogs made it 9-5 with one run in the bottom of the fifth. Colin looked in trouble after TWC lead off with a single and a two run homerun to begin the bottom of the sixth. Hernandez relieved Colin but the situation didn't improve as the Bulldogs managed to put runners on third and first with only one out. Chad Burrows (JR/Nassau, Bahamas) earned his fourth save of the season after entering and retiring the two final Bulldogs with strikeouts for a 9-7 Lions upset over the Bulldogs.
Speicher led the Lions in RBI with three after going 2-for-5 with one run scored. King scored a team-high two runs and went 2-for-4 with one RBI. Morhardt was the only other Lion with a multi-hit performance, swatting 2-for-3 with two RBI and one run scored. Clare and Jones each collected an RBI, respectively.
Morhardt currently ranks 3rd in the AAC in batting average, hitting a notable 0.406 (43-for-106) and 3rd in slugging percentage with 0.679. Calhoun sits in the 10th spot with a 0.365 batting average (42-for-115) and 7th in slugging with a 0.539. Morhardt is tied for 3rd in the conference in total hits with 43 and is trailed by Calhoun in 5th with 42 and Speicher in 6th with 41. Morhardt ranks 2nd in runs batted in with 31, while King ranks 7th with 25. Morhardt currently leads the team in doubles with eight, and Speicher follows with seven. Morhardt ranks 4th in the AAC in homeruns with seven. Astudillo, Calhoun, and King are tied for 6th in the conference with four homeruns apiece. Wallace ranks 2nd in the AAC in stolen bases with 18, while Calhoun has compiled nine for 9th place. Rowden leads the AAC in wins with six, and Sauve is close behind in a tie for 2nd with five wins. Colin is tied for 8th in wins with four. Burrows and Hernandez are tied for 6th in the AAC with four saves, respectively.
The Lions improve to 24-9 overall and 8-4 in conference action and have upset three top-ranked teams along the way. Tennessee Wesleyan move their overall record to 22-8 and 10-2 in AAC play.
Bryan returns to Senter Field on Wednesday (Mar. 30) to host Mid-South Conference foe, Campbellsville University, in doubleheader action with game one slated for 4pm.
For the full Bryan Lions Baseball schedule, click here.