Dayton, Tenn. – 13 was the number to beat, and the Bryan College Lion's freshman Bahamian slugger, Wade Weinburger (FR/James Cistern, Bahamas), was sitting at the mark entering Friday evening's opening game of a three-game home series with fellow Appalachian Athletic Conference foe, Union College (Ky.). It was Drew Friedrich '07 and Preston King '15 who set the record with a total of 13 homeruns compiled in a single season while competing with the Lions. The difference with Weinburger is that it's only taken him two thirds of the season to accomplish the feat and make history during his time at Bryan. 16 games remain in the regular season.
He notched his 12th bomb on Mar. 24 in the conference series opener against a tough side in Reinhardt University (Ga.) and then tied the record in dramatic fashion while crushing a pitch during an overwhelming defeat against AAC opponent Point University (Ga.) last week where he finished with four runs batted in. Lions fans have been anxiously awaiting the monumental moment, and Weinburger not only delivered in the contest versus Union but continued to raise the bar by going the distance on two occasions en route to a team-high 4-of-5 hits, three runs scored, four RBI's, one double, and a pair of two-run homers.
Weinburger is batting .378 this season, ranking him in the top-10 in the Lion's record books, and is slugging a blistering .867 which easily puts him atop the list of past Bryan sluggers. He has connected 51 times in 135 at-bats, scored 48 runs, swatted 13 doubles, four triples, 15 long shots, and 44 RBI's. His 15 homeruns ties him for fourth in the NAIA, his slugging percentage places him in the top-10 in the country, and his 48 trips crossing home plate tie him for 11th nationally.
The Lions were able to end early Friday thanks to Weinburger's impressive performance as 20th ranked Bryan improved to 26-12 overall and 10-6 in conference play after concluding the outing via run-rule with a 16-5 victory through seven innings of action. The Bulldogs dropped their overall record to 22-15 and AAC record to 9-7.
Union was the first to strike when a leadoff single was followed up by a two-run homerun hit over the right field fence for a 2-0 lead. Weinburger looked to counter in the bottom of the first inning when he grabbed ahold of the ball and ripped it to left field where it hit off the fence, but he was out stretching after attempting to turn the hit into a triple.
It wasn't until the bottom of the second frame that Bryan got on the board. Lake Burris (SO/Chatsworth, Ga.) applied pressure with a leadoff double, advanced to scoring position at third when Brookes Jones (SR/Franklin,Tenn.) flied out to deep center, and then continued home for the Lion's first run of the game when Tyler Scott (FR/Calgary, Alberta) collected an RBI single.
Bryan carried the momentum into the third when Weinburger singled and then continued around the bases and back home when Justin Morhardt (JR/Winsted, Conn.) crushed a long double, which leveled the score 2-2. Bryan's first homerun of the game came off the bat of Burris who scored Prentice Young (SR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.), a courtesy runner for Morhardt, and provided the Lions with their first lead of the game at 4-2. Unfortunately, for Union there was one more dagger applied by Bryan when Jones sent a solo shot over the fence to tally his first homerun of the season and second of his career, which created a 5-2 difference.
The Lions started right where they left off as the bottom of the fourth unfolded. After a strikeout to begin their at-bat, Mikey Rita (JR/Kalaheo, HI) stepped up and smoked a single to spark the rally. Rita then reached second on a stolen base. Despite Bryan lining out for their second out, Weinburger remained poised and made history by cracking a two-run homer over the fence at Senter Field on a 0-1 count to put the Lions on top 7-2. The damage wasn't over by Bryan as Justin Morhardt stayed patient and reached first on a walk. Young took over base-running duties and used his speed to advance to third when Trevor Behrent (JR/Catawissa, Pa.) singled. Burris trailed and watched as four balls were thrown to him, giving him a free pass and moving Behrent to second. Jones provided once again with a double to score Young and Behrent, which grew the deficit to 9-2.
The Bulldogs gave their best effort to calm the storm in the top of the fifth with their second two-run homerun of the game to close the gap to 9-4, but the Lions wouldn't skip a beat as they countered in the bottom of the inning with three additional runs. Kila Zuttermeister (JR/Kailua, HI) reached first on a fielder's choice, and Scott was forced out. After his bomb in the fourth, it looked like instant replay when Weinburger launched another pitch out of the field to tack on another pair of runs. The homeruns didn't seem to stop for Bryan as Morhardt followed and capped the fifth inning with a solo shot over the fence on a 1-2 count, which gave the Lions a comfortable eight-run lead at 12-4.
A walk, passed ball, single, and fielder's choice set up Union for their last run of the game in the top of the sixth. After an action-packed five innings, it seemed impossible for Bryan to outdo themselves, but pinch hitter Jacob Justice (FR/Ringgold, Ga) did just that. Jones reached on a walk, a pitch hit Fernando Garcia (JR/Kissimmee, Fla.), and Scott was walked to first, which load the bases for the Lions. With one out, Justice grabbed his bat and stepped into the box. He battled as the count grew to 2-2, and the Bulldog's pitcher made the mistake of giving him just what he was looking for. Justice swung his bat around and rocketed the ball high and long as it traveled over the fence for the grand slam, ending the game with a final score of 16-5. Union struck out three times in the top of the seventh as the first game of the series came to a close.
The Lions outhit the Bulldogs 15-8, and others who also secured a multi-hit game alongside Weinburger was Morhardt, Burris, Jones, and Scott who all ended with two hits. Justice's lone hit for the grand slam tied him with Weinburger for four RBI's in the contest. Jones doubled and homered to collect two runs scored and three runs batted in. Burris and Morhardt also doubled and homered, respectively, to produce two RBI's apiece. Behrent and Rita connected for one hit and one run score each.
Brandon Marklund (JR/North Vancouver, Canada) improved to 4-4 this season after starting on the mound for the Lions and hurling five innings, scattering eight hits, and surrendering five runs while walking four and striking out one. Austin Parrish (JR/Ringgold, Ga) relieved the final two innings and dealt a solid two frames with no hits, runs, or walks and five K's.
Bryan picks up play with Union on Saturday, Apr. 8, in doubleheader action that is slated to begin at 1pm.
For a complete look at the Bryan Lions Baseball schedule, click here.