Cleveland, Ga. – The Bears of Truett-McConnell University were unable to fend off the 14th ranked team in the nation, the Bryan College Baseball Team in Appalachian Athletic Conference doubleheader action on Friday when the Lions opened the series with a 3-1 win and followed with a 10-6 victory. Truett-McConnell wouldn't let Bryan record the easy sweep with an all-out fight in the finale on Saturday, Mar. 11, as the shootout marked the second-highest total runs game the Lions had seen this season.
Bryan took an early 4-0 lead, but Truett-McConnell countered with three runs to close out the first inning. The Bears then took control of the lead in the bottom of the second with three more runs to go ahead 6-4. Eight consecutive runs by Bryan over a three-inning stretch were all they needed to edge out Truett-McConnell. The Bears made one last effort at a comeback, registering five runs in the bottom of the seventh for their last runs of the game. One insurance run was tallied in the top of the eighth by the Lions as they earned the 13-11 win to improve to 20-5 overall and 6-0 in AAC play. Bryan is currently on a 15-game win streak after beginning the season 3-4.
The Lions outhit the Bears 16-15 and had five go for extra-base hits compared to Truett-McConnell's lone double. Lake Burris (SO/Chatsworth, Ga.), who is batting .318 and owns a .621 slugging percentage, led Bryan with arguably his most impressive performance of the season so far as he went 2-of-4 with both hits homeruns for a team-high four runs batted in. Of his 21 hits this year, two are doubles and six are homers for a total of 21 RBIs. CJ Owens (SR/Oakland, Calif.) also went the distance with his lone hit of the contest traveling over the fence for his 8th bomb this season, which is the second highest on the team only behind Wade Weinburger (FR/James Cistern, Bahamas)'s nine. Owens ranks 14th in the NAIA in total homeruns and has the third highest slugging percentage on the team at .717. He and Weinburger chipped in three RBIs, respectively, against the Bears. Kila Zuttermeister (JR/Kailua, HI) and Trevor Behrent (JR/Catawissa, Pa.) led Bryan in hits with three apiece. Zuttermeister smashed his second triple of the season, scored two runs, and had one stolen bag. Behrent produced his sixth double on the year and scored two runs. Weinburger, Alec Turner (JR/Carlisle, OH), and Justin Morhardt (JR/Winsted, Conn.) ended with two hits apiece. Weinburger not only aided in runs batted in, but he also scored one run and was walked twice. Morhardt had one RBI, and Turner had a stolen base. Mikey Rita (JR/Kalaheo, HI) had Bryan's only other hit, going 1-of-4 with one run scored and one walk.
Zane Glass (JR/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) was awarded the win, improving to 2-0, after relieving starting pitcher Landon Mosteller (SO/Clarksville, Tenn.), who lasted two innings and had five hits and six runs, three earned, recorded against him. Glass tossed four innings and surrendered four hits, four runs, walked two, and threw one strikeout. Ryan LaFever (FR/Baxter, Tenn.) followed for one out in the bottom of the seventh inning and had one run and hit allowed. Austin Parrish (JR/Ringgold, Ga) took over the seventh inning and worked until the final out of the eighth inning, before being relieved by closer Chad Burrows (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) who now is the saves leader of the NAIA after picking up his seventh save of the season. He gave up only two hits through 1.1 innings to seal the game for Bryan and wears a notable 0.55 ERA.
As the game got underway, Zuttermeister batted leadoff and delivered a single before taking a free trip to second when Weinburger reached on a walk. Morhardt came up next and ripped an RBI single, scoring Zuttermeister and advancing Weinburger to second. Prentice Young (SR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.) took over for Morhardt as a courtesy runner, but it wouldn't matter who was on as Burris cleared the bases with a three-run blast over the fence on a 1-1 count. The Lions couldn't add any more to their 4-0 lead with three back-to-back outs to end their at-bat.
The Bears answered back in the bottom of the frame when they were walked, hit by pitch, and then singled to score their first run. A wild throw allowed runners to third and second. A sacrifice fly followed, scoring another run, and their rally ended with one more single to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Bryan couldn't get anything going in the second, and Truett-McConnell took advantage to claim their first lead of the game. They started with a single, and an error by the Lions allowed another runner on. They connected for a fielder's choice, tying the game 4-4. A single, wild pitch, and walk loaded the bases. Truett-McConnell pushed ahead with a two-run single, gaining a 6-4 advantage after two innings.
It would be all the Lions over the next three innings, which proved the difference maker in the game. In the top of the third, Morhardt singled to leadoff and Young took over the duties at first. Young advanced to second on Behrent's single before taking third on a wild pitch. All three runs in the inning were collected when Owens crushed a three-run jack on a 2-2 count, allowing Bryan to regain the lead 7-6.
Zuttermeister was walked and stole second to begin the top of the fourth. Weinburger singled, which the speedy Zuttermeister took advantage of by rounding third and coming home to make it 8-6. A double-play followed, but Burris showed no problem in shaking the previous play off and launching a solo shot deep for a 9-6 edge over Truett-McConnell. Behrent continued to apply pressure with a double. He took scoring position at third on a wild pitch, and another wild pitch would give up another run to the Lions as Fernando Garcia (JR/Kissimmee, Fla.) initially struck out but the passed ball allowed Behrent to score and Garcia to reach first. Bryan ended the fourth inning out in front 10-6.
Turner was patient to leadoff in the fifth and managed to reach on a walk. Steven Ward (JR/Alabaster, Ala.) entered to pinch run for Turner and advanced to second following a successful bunt laid down by Rita. Rita reached on the bunt, and Zuttermeister kept rolling for the Lions with another well-placed bunt that loaded the bases with no outs. Weinburger smoked a single that plated Ward and Rita to build onto Bryan's lead, 12-6. Weinburger was out stretching on the play, and two other outs trailed to end their at-bat.
It wasn't until the seventh that Truett-McConnell came alive one last time as they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk with no outs. Another single scored two runners, and Bears took over third and second off the Lion's throw. The difference was slimmed to four runs at 12-8. After a pitching change, the first Bear up was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Truett-McConnell flied out for their first out, before another two-run single closed the gap to 12-10. With a runner on third, another pitching changed occurred and was followed with a long sacrifice fly that scored the man on third for a one-run difference at 12-11. A ground out ended the rally for Truett-McConnell, as they would go scoreless in the last two innings.
Morhardt reached base on a wild throw and was relieved of base running duties by Young to start the top of the eighth. Young took advantage of a wild pitch and made his was to second. Burris proved too dangerous early on and was walked. Behrent came through with a single, advancing Young to scoring position at third and Burris to second. Garcia scored Young for the final run of the game with a sac-fly, ending the game 13-11, giving Bryan their second AAC sweep.
Next for the Lions will be a two-game road stretch with a meeting against The Sun Conference opponent, Thomas University (Ga.) on Tuesday, Mar. 14, at 3pm and a matchup with the No. 2 team in the country, Georgia-Gwinnett College on Wednesday, Mar. 15, at 3pm.
For a complete look at the Bryan Lions Baseball schedule, click here.