Barbourville, Ky. – After a 12-8 Bryan loss on Friday (Apr. 15) to open a three-game series between the Lions and fellow Appalachian Athletic Conference opponent, Union College, the 17th ranked Lions responded on Saturday by outlasting the Bulldogs 4-3 in game one and 9-8 in the finale (eight innings) to improve their overall record to 32-13 and 14-7 in AAC play. Union falls to 24-21 overall and 11-10 in conference action.
Union struck first on Friday plating two runs on three hits and one error. The Bulldogs continued to tack on runs in the bottom of the second frame, jumping ahead 5-0, before Bryan exploded for six of their eight runs in the top of the third.
Crandon Wallace (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) collected his fifth homerun of the season after blasting a shot over the right field fence on a 2-1 count. Preston King (SR/Kingston, Tenn.) and Langston Calhoun (SR/Berkeley, Calif.) both delivered singles to give the Lions two runners on before Justin Morhardt (SO/Winsted, Conn.) drove both runners in with a double to deep right. Prentice Young (JR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.) entered as a courtesy runner for Morhardt and made his way home from an RBI single by Hudson Clare (JR/Jacksonville, Fla.), pulling Bryan within one, 5-4. The Lions regained the lead at 6-5 when Jesus Astudillo (SO/Caracas, Venezuela) batted a single to center, which scored Clare and Andrew Urbistondo (SR/Stockton, Calif.).
Despite the surge by the Lions, the Bulldogs continued separating themselves from Bryan with one run in the bottom of the third, five runs in the fourth, and an insurance run in the fifth to establish a 12-6 edge.
Evan Speicher (SR/Chattanooga, Tenn.) notched one run in the top of the sixth while Clare scored on a sacrifice fly after leading off with a double in the top of the ninth, but the margin proved too much as the Bulldogs upset the Lions 12-8 to start the series.
Bryan used a myriad of pitchers: Jose Hernandez (SR/Perth Amboy, N.J.) lasted two innings and surrendered five runs (two earned), Hunter Tipton (SR/Taylorsville, Ky.) tossed one inning and surrendered one earned run, Travis Moore (JR/Hastings, Mich.) earned the loss after 0.2 inning of work and giving up five earned runs, Jared Breazeale (JR/Rockwood, Tenn.) went 2.1 innings and allowed one earned run, and Zane Glass (SO/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) managed a clean slate with no hits and no runs through two innings.
Morhardt and Astudillo led the Lions with two RBI, respectively, after each went 1-for-5. King, Urbistondo, and Wallace paced the offense with three hits apiece. Wallace homered and doubled, Morhardt doubled, and Clare doubled. Clare finished 2-for-5 with a team-high two runs scored.
It was a new day and a refocused Lions team entered Jerry Carey Stadium on Saturday, planning to set the mood early in the first game. Bryan applied pressure at the start after capitalizing on a free base for King by drawing a walk and a single up the middle from Calhoun. Morhardt landed a shot to deep left for a two run RBI double, providing the Lions with a 2-0 lead after one inning of play.
Union cut the deficit to one with one run scored in the bottom of the second, but the close call didn't last long as Bryan added two runs in the top of the fourth frame. Astudillo knocked a single to left and advanced to third when Speicher followed with a double down the left field line. King came through with a crucial hit, singling to right-center which plated Astudillo and Speicher for a 4-1 lead.
The Bulldogs looked to make a comeback as they secured two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the Lions quickly diminished any hopes for Union. A difference maker for Bryan was starting pitcher LJ Rowden (SR/Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) who earned his seventh win of the year after tossing a complete seven innings and allowing seven hits and only three earned runs. Bryan's four runs were just enough as the Lions held on to capture the 4-3 victory to tie the series 1-1.
King and Morhardt each finished with two RBI apiece, while Speicher led the team in hits accomplishing two swats in four at-bats with one run scored.
After an upset on Friday and a response by Bryan in Saturday's first game, both teams stepped foot on the diamond and headed into the final game for all the marbles with the series tied 1-1.
The Bulldogs got on the board first, seeming as if slow and steady could win the race with one run in the first and another one run plated in the second by Union. Wallace remained attentive at the plate in the top of the third inning and delivered a double down the right field line before advancing to third on a stolen bag. Speicher socked a double to deep left, putting the Lions on the board with their first run of the game after Wallace scored on the batted ball. King persistently followed through for the Lions with significant hits. He put Speicher in scoring position at third for the tying run with a single to center. All Calhoun had to do was drive a ball deep in order for Speicher to make it home, and that's exactly what he did as he connected on a pitch and sent it to far left, making it 2-2.
A lone run in the bottom of the third allowed the Bulldogs to regain a lead at 3-2, but Jones crossed home in the top of the fourth to level the score once again, 3-3. Jones reached first with a single down the left field line and slowly worked his way to third before scoring the tying run when Speicher hit into a fielder's choice.
The game seemed to be going Union's way as the Bulldogs pieced together three runs in the bottom of the fourth frame, but Bryan sparked a rally in the top of the fifth. Even with no runners on and two outs after a double play by Union, Bryan maintained composure and was first motivated by a single to shallow left from Clare. Urbistondo followed by reaching first on a walk. Jones landed a shot to the infield, but he reached base due to a misplayed grounder by a Bulldog. Clare and Urbistondo took advantage of the opportunity and scored for the Lions, while Jones took scoring position at third base. Bryan had runners on first and third after Astudillo was walked. After going the distance once already against Union, Wallace registered his sixth homerun of the year and second of the series in the form of a three run shot over the right field fence to put the Lions up 8-6.
Union managed to shake off the go-ahead performance by Bryan in the top of the fifth and answered back with two runs in the bottom of the frame to even the score 8-8.
Neither team could post a score in the sixth and once the Lions came up empty in the seventh, the Bulldogs were given a shot at ending the game but Hernandez had a different plan. He retired two Bulldogs by strikeouts and got one batter to fly out, giving way to extra innings.
Union's Ryan Ziels stumbled in the eighth by walking two Lions before surrendering a hit to Jones who singled to center, plating Calhoun for the winning run, 9-8. Chad Burrows (JR/Nassau, Bahamas) entered in the bottom of the eighth for Bryan and kept poise by getting a quick three outs to record a 9-8 win and weekend series win 2-1.
Hernandez was awarded the win after tossing three innings, allowing one hit and striking out four, and continues with a spotless 4-0 record this season. Burrows notched his sixth save this year. Francisco Colin (SR/Las Vegas, Nev.) started for the Lions and lasted three innings after giving up seven hits, six runs (four earned), walking three, and striking out four. Landon Mosteller (FR/Clarksville, Tenn.) entered for one inning of relief work and allowed three hits, two runs (one earned), and walked one.
Wallace finished 2-for-2 with two runs scored and a three run homerun to allow the Lions back into the game. Jones ended with a team-high three hits in five at-bats, two runs scored, and two RBI along with the hit to plate the winning run in extra innings. Speicher hit 2-for-5 with two RBI and one run scored. Jones, Speicher, and Wallace each doubled.
Bryan travels for a midweek non-conference matchup against Cumberland University (Tenn.) on Tuesday (Apr. 19) at 2pm, before heading to fellow AAC School, Montreat College (N.C.) on Friday and Saturday (Apr. 22-23) for a three-game series against the Cavaliers.
For the full Bryan Lions Baseball schedule, click here.