Dayton, Tenn. – After two teams backed out last-minute, the Bryan College Lions baseball team found a willing Madonna University (Mich.) who were prepared to battle it out in a four-game series over the weekend. The Lions took to Senter Field on Friday and set the tone early with a 13-5 routing of the Crusaders in game one but eventually fell to Madonna in game two, 5-3, for their only loss over the two-day stretch. The Crusaders caused problems in both games on Saturday, but they were unable to tame the Lions as Bryan rallied for two come-from-behind wins to seal the series 3-1.
Friday, Feb. 17 - Game 1
It only took three innings for Bryan to run away with the compelling victory in the series-opener as the Lions plated seven runs in the second and added five more in the bottom of the third before tallying one more insurance run in the fifth. Bryan sparked the rally in the bottom of the second with four consecutive hits. Batting leadoff was Trevor Behrent (JR/Catawissa, Pa.) who doubled and was followed by a single by Lake Burris (SO/Chatsworth, Ga.), putting Behrent in scoring position at third. Brookes Jones (SR/Franklin,Tenn.) brought in Behrent for the first run of the game after swatting a single. Fernando Garcia (JR/Kissimmee, Fla.) kept the momentum for the Lions with a single, advancing Burris to third and Jones to second. With bases loaded, Alec Turner (JR/Carlisle, OH) took his turn and hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Burris and allowing Jones to take third. Garcia used his speed to steal second, but a wild throw on the play was capitalized on by Jones who traveled home. Garcia continued to cause problems for the pitcher and managed to cause a balk that sent him to third. Mikey Rita (JR/Kalaheo, HI) connected for an RBI single, and then he followed it up with a stolen bag. Wade Weinburger (FR/James Cistern, Bahamas) was able to reach base on a misplayed ball by Madonna, which set up Rita at third. Justin Morhardt (JR/Winsted, Conn.) belted a double that plated another run for the Lions and positioned Weinburger at third for a chance at another run. Prentice Young (SR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.) entered to pinch run for Morhardt, and the change paid off as Behrent closed out the inning with a double that brought in Weinburger and Young, extending Bryan's lead to 7-0.
When Jones singled to leadoff the third and was trailed by Garcia with a single, Madonna decided it was time for a pitching change. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, the change wasn't quick enough as the bats got hot for Bryan and Turner kept the pace going with a single that loaded bases with no outs. Tyler Scott (FR/Calgary, Alberta) kept composure and was hit by a pitch, giving Jones a free pass to home. The next run was scored when Rita was walked. A fly out followed, but Morhardt delivered a blow with a two-run single, scoring Turner and Scott. Young took over for Morhardt at first, and then advanced to second when Behrent singled to plate Rita. A walk loaded the bases, but the Lions lined-out back-to-back to retire the inning.
The 12-0 advantage lasted until the top of the fifth when the Crusaders slotted an RBI double and then cleared the bases with a three-run jack over the fence on a 3-1 count, slimming the margin to eight with a 12-4 score. The Lions responded with a lone run in the bottom of the frame when Madonna bobbled a ball hit by Morhardt and then misplayed a grounder hit by Behrent. A sac-fly by Burris allowed Tucker Cain (SO/Jacksboro, Tenn.) to score who entered as a pinch runner for Morhardt.
Down 13-4, the Crusaders were able to spot one more run in the contest in the top of the sixth with three singles and wild pitch, ending the game at 13-5 and giving the Lions the game one victory.
Chris Sauve (SR/Mascouche, Quebec) was given the win after tossing five innings and surrendering four hits, four earned runs, walking three, and striking out five. Irvin Cespedes (FR/Wappinger Falls, NY) entered for one inning of relief and gave up three hits with one run scored. Zane Glass (JR/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) closed out the game for the Lions with no hits or runs allowed and managed to get one out by strikeout. Behrent matched Morhardt for a team-high three RBI's and was 3-of-4 at the plate with two doubles. Morhardt was 2-of-4 with one double, and both Jones and Garcia were the only other Lions with a multi-hit game. Rita was 1-of-3 with a pair of RBI's and scored two runs along with Jones and Garcia who also reached home on two occasions. As a team, the Lions outhit the Crusaders 14-7 and only committed one error compared to Madonna's four.
A consistent game by Madonna and holding Bryan to only six hits in the second game on Friday helped the Crusaders earn their one win of the series. The Lions jumped on the board first with a run plated in the bottom of the first inning. Madonna walked Weinburger and then allowed Morhardt to reach base because of a misplayed grounder. A balk moved the runners to second and third, and a single by Burris brought across Weinburger for the 1-0 lead.
Bryan's starting pitcher, Tristan Legault (SO/Mascouche, Quebec), walked the first batter up in the top of the second frame and then surrendered a double. The next Crusader grounded out, but a run came across to even the score 1-1 after two innings. Madonna then took their first lead in the third when the leadoff batter waited for the third pitch and drove it deep over the fence to go up 2-1.
Neither team could score in the fourth, but the Crusaders created even more separation in the top of the fifth when a Madonna player reached on a walk, stole second, and then scored off a single. Bryan was able to get the final out before any more runs were scored. It didn't take much time for the Lions to counter in the bottom of the frame when Rita produced a single and continued home following a triple ripped by Weinburger. Morhardt had a large presence at the plate that ended in him being hit by a pitch. Behrent came afterwards and looked like he may be out after connecting with the ball, but a misplayed grounder led to him reaching first, Weinburger scoring, and Morhardt advancing to second. The Lions would be held scoreless for the rest of the game as the Crusaders posted two runs off a double late in the top of the seventh. With two outs and runners on first and second, Bryan was unable to force extras as Madonna took it 5-3.
Morhardt led the Lions with two hits in three at-bats. The only extra-base hit was recorded by Weinburger who went 1-of-3 with a triple, two runs scored, and one run batted in. Rita, Burris, and Scott finished with one hit, respectively. Legault dealt five innings from the mound, allowing five hits, three earned runs, four walks, and four K's. Austin Parrish (JR/Ringgold, Ga) followed for 1.1 innings and received the loss after giving up one hit and two earned runs. Miguel Lopez (JR/Yaucco, Puerto Rico) came in for the final two outs and picked up the first with a groundout and the second by a strikeout swinging, allowing only one hit.
Saturday, Feb. 18 – Game 3
Bryan came out of the gate strong to begin play on Saturday, plating three runs in the bottom of the first. Rita took base on a walk but was forced out when Weinburger hit into a fielder's choice. Weinburger then waited for the right moment and successfully stole second, which led to him taking scoring position at third on a Morhardt single. Young entered to pinch run for Morhardt. Behrent grounded out, but it was good enough for Young to advance to second and Weinburger to reach home. Burris came up next and waited as two pitches were called balls. On the third one, he came around and went the distance with it for a two-run homer, putting the Lions up 3-0.
Madonna was able to close the gap to two in the top of the second with two singles and a groundout, scoring one runner to make it 3-1.
A double by Weinburger and a single by Morhardt was all Bryan needed to go ahead 4-1 through three innings.
The next four runs were notched by the Crusaders who scored one in the fourth inning off a double and groundout and three more in the fifth from a three-run homerun, pulling ahead of the Lions 5-4. Desperately needing to score, Bryan's Scott singled to leadoff the bottom of the fifth and advanced to second on a stolen base before taking scoring position at third for the tying run. He continued his way home when Weinburger hit a sacrifice fly, evening it 5-5. Morhardt set up the Lions to go ahead with a single. Young took over for a short time at first before stealing second. Behrent delivered an RBI single, scoring Young to regain the lead for Bryan, 6-5.
Brandon Marklund (JR/North Vancouver, Canada) got the first two Crusaders to fly out to begin the sixth, and closer Chad Burrows (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) got the last batter to strike out swinging. Bryan secured one more run in the bottom of the inning when CJ Owens (SR/Oakland, Calif.) pinch hit for Turner and took the first pitch he saw deep for his first homer of the year. In the top of the seventh, Burrows struck out the first guy looking, got the second to fly out, and retired the last batter striking out swinging to seal the comeback win, 7-5.
Marklund got the win after 5.2 innings on the mound, showing nine hits and five earned runs, walking two, and striking out five. Burrows allowed only one hit and collected three strikeouts through 1.1 innings for the save. Morhardt was the only Lion with more than one hit, finishing a flawless 3-of-3 with an RBI. Burris and Owens made the most of their one hit, with each delivering a homerun. Weinburger went 1-of-2 with a double, scored two runs, and had one run batted in. Behrent and Burris led the team with two RBI's apiece. The hit count went Madonna's way 10-9.
The Lions entered the sixth inning, trailing 6-1. It looked as if the Crusaders would take a 2-2 split with Bryan over the weekend, but the home team wasn't through battling. The lone run for the Lions in the bottom of the fourth was because of Weinburger's determination. He singled, stole second, stole third, and then scored on a groundout by Morhardt. That run would prove detrimental to the come-from-behind effort by Bryan.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Lions started to make headway when Behrent singled, stole a bag to advance to second, and then took third on a wild pitch. Owens completed a single, plating Behrent to cut it to 6-2. Garcia came through next with a triple, allowing Owens to make his way around the bases and back home, making it a 6-3 ballgame entering the seventh.
Freshman Ryan LaFever (FR/Baxter, Tenn.) came into the game in the top of the seventh and showed poise as he hurled a strikeout and got a Crusader to groundout and another to fly out, giving up no hits in the process. He set up the Lions with a chance in the bottom of the frame, and they seized the opportunity. Scott began with a hit-by-pitch, and then advanced to scoring position at third off a Rita double. Madonna was in trouble when they were faced against Weinburger, and he made them pay when he crushed the first pitch coming across the plate for his team-leading fourth homerun of the season, scoring three runs to tie the game 6-6. A double play ended the chance for the Lions to end it in seven, but that wouldn't matter.
LaFever was unwavering in the top of the eighth as he gave up one hit but turned over three outs. The Lions weren't able to produce in the bottom of the frame, putting the pressure back on LaFever. He delivered once again in the top of the ninth, allowing only one hit. Bryan entered the bottom of the ninth and started with a fly out. It was Weinburger again and instead of walking him, Madonna threw to him, which resulted in a single. The mistake had already been made as Weinburger stole second. Morhardt's power resulted in an intentional walk, putting runners on first and second with one out. The Crusaders were in a hole and dug even deeper when a walk loaded the bases, putting the fast Weinburger at third. A wild throw ended it all as Weinburger sprinted and reached home, scoring the winning run. The comeback was completed, going from down 6-1 through five innings and plating six unanswered runs for a 7-6 victory. The win gave Bryan the 3-1 series final.
LaFever got the win with three innings of work and only two hits allowed while striking out three and walking none. Landon Mosteller (SO/Clarksville, Tenn.) started for the Lions and went five innings, surrendering six hits and six runs, five earned, with four strikeouts. Lopez saw one inning and recorded one strikeout. Weinburger had a monster game, swatting 3-of-4 with three runs scored, three RBI's, three stolen bases, and one homer. Garcia was remarkable as well with two hits in four at-bats, bringing in one run off a double and triple. Rita's lone hit was a double, and he scored one run. Others to end with a hit were Morhardt, Behrent, Burris, Owens, and Steven Ward (JR/Alabaster, Ala.). Bryan totaled 11 hits in the contest, while Madonna finished with eight.
Bryan improves to 7-5 overall this year, while Madonna dropped to 6-6.
Up next for the Lions are their first road games of the season, when they travel to Lakepoint, Ga. to face-off with the Eagles of Toccoa Falls College on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Game one of the doubleheader is slated to start at 3pm.
For a complete look at the Bryan Lions Baseball schedule, click here.