Kingsport, Tenn. – Only four teams moved into Tuesday's second round of the 2016 Appalachian Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament without a loss, and despite the No. 2 seed Bryan College Lions tallying 11 hits and No. 3 seed Point University Skyhawks (Ga.) notching 14 through the contest, the Lions were handed their first loss of the tourney when a late run in the top of the eighth was the difference maker in a 5-4 final decision. Earlier in the season, Bryan struggled with Point in a three-game series when the Skyhawks edged out the series 2-1 with one game that took extra innings.
After a quite first inning, the Skyhawks jumped on the board first scoring one run in the top of the second coming from an RBI single to center.
The lead by Point was short lived as Bryan pieced together their most impressive time at the plate in the bottom of the third frame that gave way to three runs. Jesus Astudillo (SO/Caracas, Venezuela) scored the first Lions run when he reached base after being walked and was brought home when Brookes Jones (JR/Franklin,Tenn.) connected for his 10th double this season (third consecutive game with a double) and sent it to deep right-center. Evan Speicher (SR/Chattanooga, Tenn.) followed with a single to left, which put runners on the corners for Bryan with one out. A sacrifice fly blasted by Preston King (SR/Kingston, Tenn.) to center plated Jones for the second run of the Lions. Singles by Crandon Wallace (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) and Justin Morhardt (SO/Winsted, Conn.) safely allowed Speicher to score and separate Bryan from Point 3-1.
The Skyhawks managed to shake off the momentum that the Lions built and leveled the score at 3's in the top of the fourth. Bryan's starting pitcher, Chris Sauve (JR/Mascouche, Quebec), began the inning with a quick start when Point had a batter ground out to second and fly out in foul territory. Unable to close out their at-bat, four balls allowed a Skyhawk to reach first before taking second as a result of a wild pitch. After a back-to-back walk, Point connected for a single that traveled thru the hole at second base, which was concluded with a wild throw that plated two runs to even the score 3-3.
Two hits and one error was all it took for Point to reestablish a lead in the top of the seventh, but Bryan responded in the bottom of the frame. Jones reached base on a fielder's choice, Speicher singled to left, and King singled thru the hole at second to load the bases for the Lions with only one out. Wallace stepped up to the plate and swung into a fielder's choice that scored courtesy runner, Prentice Young (JR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.), but picked up a second out before a strikeout got the Skyhawks out of trouble with the score deadlocked 4-4.
The top of the eighth decided the game as Point placed a runner in scoring position at second by means of a leadoff double. In attempt to advance the runner to third, the Skyhawks trailed with a bunt but instead of the routine play to first, the throw struck the runner which allowed the other runner to make his way home for the go-ahead run, 5-4.
The fight was far from over as Speicher cracked a leadoff single to right to start the bottom of the ninth, and then King singled to deep left-center that advanced Speicher to third. An unfortunate judgment while base running led to the first out, but Speicher controlled third with the tying run waiting patiently. A pitch change proved to be the correct move for Point as the closing pitcher fanned the following batter and forced a fly out for the final out of the game that took away all chance at a comeback from Bryan.
Sauve began at the mound for the Lions and surrendered eight hits and three runs (two earned), while walking two and striking out two through five innings. Reliever Francisco Colin (SR/Las Vegas, Nev.) picked up the loss though, his third this season, after struggling through four innings and allowing six hits and two runs (one earned) while whiffing two.
Speicher and King led the way for Bryan with three hits apiece, and Speicher chipped in one run scored and King ended with one run batted in. Morhardt was the only other Lion with a multi-hit game after finishing 2-for-5 with one RBI. Jones had the lone extra-base hit of the game for Bryan in the form of a double after hitting 1-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI. Wallace aided with the other RBI after going 1-for-5 at the plate.
AAC Tournament Notes:
Point and No. 4 seed Union College (Ky.) are the lone teams to remain undefeated in tournament action after the first two days. Union upset the top seeded, No. 5 team in the nation, Tennessee Wesleyan Tuesday night 1-0.
Here is the breakdown for Wednesday's games:
Wednesday, May 11
Game 9 - No. 7 Milligan (22-30) vs. No. 2 Bryan (37-17), 10:30 a.m.
Game 10 - No. 8 Bluefield (28-29) vs. No. 1 Tennessee Wesleyan (41-12), 1:30 p.m.
Game 11 - No. 3 Point (29-27) vs. Game 9 Winner, 5 p.m.
Game 12 - No. 4 Union (29-25) vs. Game 10 Winner, 8 p.m.
The Lions look to leave right where they left off when they faced Milligan in the opening day of the tournament in which they blanked the Buffaloes 8-0.
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.