Kingsport, Tenn. – Quality execution on the mound by senior All-Conference First Team starting pitcher LJ Rowden (SR/Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) through a complete nine innings, along with a game-high three RBIs from All-Conference Second Team and Gold Glove Team member Evan Speicher (SR/Chattanooga, Tenn.) and team-leading 10th homerun of the season by All-Conference First Team and fellow Gold Glove Team honoree Crandon Wallace (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) was just what the 21st ranked, No. 2 seeded, Bryan College Lions Baseball Team needed to roll past the No. 7 seed Buffaloes of Milligan College (Tenn.) 8-0 in the opening round of the 2016 Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament on Monday.
The tournament, having been played in Kingsport, Tenn. for the 10th consecutive year, location was familiar to Rowden as he took the mound in Hunter Wright Stadium and showed no hesitation as he hurled a gem, holding the Buffs to only five hits and no runs through nine innings for a complete game shutout. Along the way, he surrendered only two walks and fanned two as the rest of the Lions defense capitalized to keep Milligan from posting a run. Needing only 87 pitches, Rowden collected his 10th win of the season to bring his overall record to 10-2.
Both teams remained quite through the first two innings of action, but a combination of Brookes Jones (JR/Franklin,Tenn.) and Speicher in the top of the third frame provided Bryan with the first run of the contest. Jones cashed in a leadoff triple to deep right-center to take scoring position, which was followed by a sacrifice fly deep down the right field line by Speicher that plated Jones for a 1-0 Lions lead.
With a 1-0 edge entering into the fifth, the Lions took control of the game after rallying for three runs. Jones consistently aided Bryan with opportunities in the leadoff spot after cracking a double down the right field line. Jones advanced to third when Speicher carried out a seamless bunt, which wasn't fielded in time as he reached first. All-Conference First Team member and the only other Lion to receive Gold Glove Team honors, Preston King (SR/Kingston, Tenn.), hit into a fielder's choice that scored Jones but forced Speicher out at second. The dagger came when Wallace patiently waited as a 1-1 count built before driving the next pitch over the right field fence for a two-run blast that jumped the Lions ahead 4-0.
A single past the hole at shortstop by Andrew Urbistondo (SR/Stockton, Calif.), trailed by Jesus Astudillo (SO/Caracas, Venezuela) with a walk, put two runners that eventually made their way to second and third by a sac-bunt by Jones. Two of his team leading three RBIs came with one swing when Speicher notched a double to deep right-center that plated both Urbistondo and Astudillo for a 6-0 advantage for Bryan.
The Lions picked up an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Hudson Clare (JR/Jacksonville, Fla.) managed to reach first on a fielder's choice and then used his speed to advance to scoring position at third when Urbistondo knocked a single to left-center. One of Bryan's 11 hits came when Astudillo ripped a single to third that brought Clare home to extend the Lions lead to 7-0.
Cody Rhinehart (SR/Ooltewah, Tenn.) reached second base after turning a single down the left field line into an extra base when a Buff came up short with a misplayed grounder. Tristan Legault (FR/Mascouche, Quebec) entered as a courtesy runner for Rhinehart and registered his first career run scored as a Lion after advancing on a groundout by Clare and sac-fly by Urbistondo. As Milligan entered the top of the ninth in search of their first run, all hopes were lost when the Buffaloes popped out and then ended in a 1-4-3 double play that sealed the 8-0 win for Bryan.
Urbistondo led the team in the hits column, finishing 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored. The only other Lions to serve up a multi-hit performance was Wallace, who went 2-for-5 with a two-run homerun that gave him two RBIs and one run scored and the other being Jones, who was 2-for-3 on the day with a team-high two runs scored with one double and one triple. Speicher led the Lions in RBIs with three after wrapping up the outing 1-for-3 with a double.
In the first day of action in Kingsport, all top-seeded teams prevailed as no upsets occurred.
Here are the results of day one:
Monday, May 9
Game 1 - No. 4 Union (28-25) def. No. 5 St. Andrews (29-24), 7-0
Game 2 - No. 3 Point (28-27) def. No. 6 Truett-McConnell (29-26), 8-2
Game 3 - No. 2 Bryan (37-16) def. No. 7 Milligan (21-30), 8-0
Game 4 - No. 1 Tennessee Wesleyan (40-11) def. No. 8 Bluefield (27-29), 15-5 (8 innings)
The Lions look to answer No. 3 seeded Point University (Ga.) today at 4pm after the Skyhawks soared past Bryan in the regular season matchup (Apr. 8-9) by taking the three-game series 2-1 (L-4-8, W-10-5, L-5-8 (8 innings)).
Here is today's schedule:
Tuesday, May 10
Game 5 - No. 6 Truett-McConnell (29-26) vs. No. 7 Milligan (21-30), 9 a.m.
Game 6 - No. 5 St. Andrews (29-24) vs. No. 8 Bluefield (27-29), 12 p.m.
Game 7 - No. 3 Point (28-27) vs. No. 2 Bryan (37-16), 4 p.m.
Game 8 - No. 4 Union (28-25) vs. No. 1 Tennessee Wesleyan (40-11), 7 p.m.
To watch all of the games live, visit the AAC Digital Network. (Cost: $7.99/game or $19.99/tournament)
Follow along live via live stats and keep up with tournament statistics on the DakStats Page.
For all the information on the tournament, visit the AAC Tournament Page.