Dayton, Tenn. – Only three hits were surrendered to the No. 6 team in the nation, Georgia Gwinnett College, in a top-20 showdown with the No. 19 Bryan College Lions Baseball Team Tuesday evening. The Lions smashed their way to 13 hits en route to a 5-0 shutout of the Grizzlies, improving their overall record to 25-12 and dropping Georgia Gwinnett to 27-13 this season. Bryan responded in the rematch, having fallen to the Grizzlies in their first meeting this season 8-3 on Mar. 15.
Just after the contest started, the third edition of the NAIA Baseball Coaches' Top 25 Poll was released, reflecting Georgia Gwinnett's drop from sixth to eighth and Bryan's shift from 19th to 20th.
There wasn't a Lion who saw the mound longer than one inning, and the strategy paid off as Bryan handed Georgia Gwinnett only their second shutout loss this year. Then-ranked 8th Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) silenced the Grizzlies 3-0 on Mar. 10 for the only other blanking of Georgia Gwinnett in 2017.
Miguel Lopez (JR/Yaucco, Puerto Rico) improved his record to 2-0 after dealing the fifth inning and notching a pair of strikeouts. Prior to Lopez was Travis Moore (SR/Hastings, Mich.) who started the game, Zane Glass (JR/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) followed in the second, Sam Salyers (JR/Kingsport, Tenn.) took over in the third, and Landon Mosteller (SO/Clarksville, Tenn.) relieved in the fourth. Moore, Glass, and Mosteller each threw two strikeouts apiece, and Salyers recorded one K. After Lopez, Ryan LaFever (FR/Baxter, Tenn.) aided in the sixth, Tristan Legault (SO/Mascouche, Quebec) hurled the seventh, Brandon Marklund (JR/North Vancouver, Canada) guided the team through the eighth, and Chad Burrows (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) closed the ninth. LaFever, Legault, Marklund, and Burrows each had one strikeout, respectively, while Legault allowed one hit and Marklund had the only other two Grizzly hits come against him as the Lions proved successful on the team effort.
Bryan was consistent in their game, jumping out to an early lead and continually extending their lead throughout the game until the bottom of the eighth. The first run came when Justin Morhardt (JR/Winsted, Conn.) doubled, Prentice Young (SR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.) entered as a courtesy runner, and Trevor Behrent (JR/Catawissa, Pa.) ripped a single to score Young for a 1-0 advantage after one inning.
Wade Weinburger (FR/James Cistern, Bahamas) sparked the offense in the third with a double that nearly crawled over the fence as it hit the red tape running across the wall and fell back into play. Behrent provided another clutch single, which advanced Weinburger to scoring position at third before Lake Burris (SO/Chatsworth, Ga.) clobbered a high sacrifice fly into left-center to plate Weinburger, bringing the score to 2-0.
Georgia Gwinnett has proven to be a mentally tough team this season, rallying from behind with late runs on several different occasions. The Grizzlies looked to make some noise in the top of the sixth when Angel Soto reached on a walk, and Jean Paul Rodriguez grabbed ahold of a pitch and sailed it way over the center fence of Senter Field to level the score 2-2, but after further examination the pair of runs were negated. The umpire called the player out because of excessive pine tar on the barrel of the bat, making the bat illegal.
A leadoff singled by Brookes Jones (SR/Franklin,Tenn.) helped piece together the Lion's next run scored in the bottom of the sixth and dismantle any momentum that the Grizzlies had built in the top of the frame. Jones took advantage of the error when a wild throw was made on the following play, allowing him to travel to second. Mikey Rita (JR/Kalaheo, HI) delivered a single, which made Jones apply pressure on third. Kila Zuttermeister (JR/Kailua, HI) brought his bat around and made contact, but the grounder was misplayed. Jones crossed home plate on the error for a 3-0 edge over Georgia Gwinnett. The Grizzlies were able to get the final out via strikeout before the Lions could tack on any more runs.
Georgia Gwinnett singled in the top of the seventh for their first hit of the game and advanced to second on a wild throw, but two groundouts followed to retire their at-bat. Bryan responded in the bottom of the inning when Morhardt led off with a single. Young took over base running duties and sprinted to second when Behrent laid down a sac-bunt. The Grizzlies were beginning to lose hope when two wild pitches gave Young a free pass to score for the Lions, increasing the deficit to 4-0.
In the top of the eighth, Georgia Gwinnett grounded out but trailed with back-to-back singles. Bryan remained poised, and Morhardt anticipated the steal at second. When the runner took off from first, Morhardt caught the pitch from Marklund and roped it to Rita at second who made the easy tag. Marklund eliminated the threat by striking out the last batter swinging.
The Lions added one more run in the bottom of the eighth, and it was a result of Rita knocking a double into the fence in right-center and Weinburger recording an RBI double to score Rita to seal a 5-0 final.
Weinburger scored one run, collected one RBI, and led the team in hits finishing 3-of-5 with two doubles. Morhardt had one double after hitting 2-of-4 in the game. Rita doubled, scored one run, and ended the outing 2-of-4. Fernando Garcia (JR/Kissimmee, Fla.) and Tyler Scott (FR/Calgary, Alberta) produced one hit apiece in the game, and both were doubles. Young was quick on the bases, scoring a team-high two runs. Behrent and Jones had a multi-hit game with two hits each, while Behrent chipped in an RBI and Jones scored one run. Burris and Zuttermeister helped with one RBI apiece.
The Lions are at home this weekend with a three-game series against fellow Appalachian Athletic Conference rival, Union College (Ky.). On Friday, Apr. 7, Bryan and the Bulldogs face-off at 6pm and continue play the next day in doubleheader action starting at 1pm.
For a complete look at the Bryan Lions Baseball schedule, click here.