Bluefield, Va. – Over the two days that the Bryan College Lions Baseball Team and the Rams of Bluefield College battled through a three-game Appalachian Athletic Conference series, the Lions outscored the host school 24-10 and took home the series 2-1 with a 10-4 win to begin play, slipped up with a 3-2 loss, and then closed out with a dominating 12-3 performance. Bryan improved their overall record to 34-14, which is the best of any AAC school, and continues to hold onto the third spot in conference with a 16-8 record against conference opponents. Bluefield sits in eighth in the AAC standings at 23-25 overall and 8-16 in conference action.
Justin Morhardt (JR/Winsted, Conn.) led the way for the Lions in game one with a team-high three hits in his three at-bats and scored two runs along with a pair of runs batted in and one stolen bag. Bryan's RBI leader in the outing was Trevor Behrent (JR/Catawissa, Pa.) who notched three with one double in his two hits. Fernando Garcia (JR/Kissimmee, Fla.), Brookes Jones (SR/Franklin,Tenn.), and Hudson Clare (SR/Jacksonville, Fla.) each turned in a multi-hit performance with two hits apiece. Clare had a quality day with one double, one RBI, two hits, and team-best trey of runs scored. Jones crossed home twice, and Garcia aided with one run scored. The only other hit came off the bat of Kila Zuttermeister (JR/Kailua, HI) who ended with one run scored. Both Mikey Rita (JR/Kalaheo, HI) and Wade Weinburger (FR/James Cistern, Bahamas) couldn't produce a hit, but each was able to tally one RBI apiece.
Chad Burrows (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) remains perfect this season without a loss by improving his record to 9-0 after dealing a complete seven innings and surrendering just six hits, four runs, one walk, and four strikeouts.
All of Bryan's runs came in the third, fourth, and fifth innings as Jones singled to left and Clare doubled over the right field fence to begin the third inning. Rita tallied a sacrifice fly to right to score Jones. Morhardt singled to center to plate Clare. Weinburger was walked, and Behrent helped extend the Lion's lead to 4-0 with a two-run double to left that brought around Morhardt and Weinburger.
With bases loaded in the top of the fourth, Weinburger placed a sac-fly to center to score Jones. The other run came when Behrent singled to right, which allowed Clare to score and lift the difference to 6-0.
In the bottom of the frame, Bluefield pieced together their only rally of the game, beginning with a successful bunt. A doubled followed to put runners on second and third with no outs. The Rams singled to the pitcher's mound to score their first run of the game. Another double aided to cut the deficit to 6-2, before the next two runs were scored off a single and stolen base to make it a two-run difference at 6-4.
The dagger came in the top of the fifth when the Lions used four hits and took advantage of an error to tack on four more runs. Garcia and Kila got on base with a single and bunt, and Jones advanced them with a bunt. Clare singled to right, which scored Garcia and set up Zuttermeister at third. Morhardt brought Zuttermeister in off a single lined to right field, and trailing was Weinburger who scored Clare on a fielder's choice. Morhardt came in for the last run of the game after cruising in from third on a passed ball. The 10-4 decision provided Bryan with a 1-0 edge in the series, but the Rams would make sure to level the series in game two.
Even though both sides combined for 18 hits with the Lions narrowly outdoing the Rams 10-8, the last game on Tuesday was low scoring and was decided in the seventh inning.
Travis Moore (SR/Hastings, Mich.) started on the mound for Bryan and did all he could to help lead the Lions to a win as he held Bluefield to just one run through six innings. He scattered six hits, walked two, and hurled five K's. The Rams were in a similar scenario with their starting pitcher holding the Lions to just one run through the first six innings of play, but the pressure was put on the backs of the closers who entered in the seventh inning.
Bryan got on the board in the top of the first when Morhardt led off with a single to right, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then was plated when Weinburger drove a single to center. Bluefield answered in the bottom of the frame to even the score 1-1 with consecutive doubles.
Tied 1-1 entering the top of the seventh, the Rams got in trouble quickly by giving up a single to Weinburger and a double to left-center by Behrent that resulted in a run. Unfortunately for the Lions, after a pitching change was made, Bryan flied out, struck out, and then popped out to control a 2-1 lead.
In need of a stop, the Lions turned to Miguel Lopez (JR/Yaucco, Puerto Rico) for help. He struck out the first batter swinging, but he walked the next. A stolen base would have put the tying run on second, but a wild throw by Morhardt on the play allowed the runner to reach third. A single to right scored the man from third to make the score 2-2, but another stolen base and single sent to the opposite side of the field gave Bluefield a 3-2 walk-off win.
Lopez was given the loss, and only two Lions tallied more than one hit. Weinburger and Behrent each had two hits and one RBI, respectively, while Weinburger also scored one run. Morhardt ended with one hit and one run. Lake Burris (SO/Chatsworth, Ga.), Garcia, Zuttermeister, Clare, and Rita each made it onto the hit's column with one apiece.
In Saturday's game that determined the series, it was all Bryan as they capitalized with multiple runs in each of the first four innings. Five hits, including a double to deep right-center by Behrent, aided the Lions in three quick runs in the top of the first. Bluefield countered in the bottom of the inning by putting two guys on, but the fourth batter hit into a double play that retired their at-bat.
The explosiveness was relentless by the Lions as they roared to another three runs in the top of the second frame. Morhardt reached on a walk, relieved base-running duties to Prentice Young (SR/Oak Ridge, Tenn.), who took no time to steal second. The steal gave way to a score when Weinburger singled to left. Behrent showed patience and reached on a walk, which put runners on first and second. Both Lions got to shift to second and third because of a wild pitch. Burris roped in the next two runs scored by connecting for a single that traveled to left. Weinburger and Behrent came in to move the advantage to 6-0.
The Rams made it easy for the Lions to build on to their lead in the third when they registered a pair of walks and wild pitches, before Behrent took advantage and used a base hit to score both Young and Weinburger for an 8-0 score.
Zuttermeister singled to left and Rita doubled to deep left for a 9-0 lead to start the top of the fourth inning. Morhardt improved his homerun total to 10 when he let the count build to 3-1 before sending a two-run towering shot over the fence in center to increase the margin to 11-0.
It wasn't until the bottom of the fifth inning that the Rams recorded their first run of the game. Bluefield squeezed out one more run in the sixth and then again in the eighth, but Bryan capped the contest with an insurance run in the ninth frame. Three straight walks loaded the bases, and it was Tucker Cain (SO/Jacksboro, Tenn.) who punched in the final run with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Cameron Yoho (SR/Collierville, Tenn.) and wrapped up a 12-3 win to take the series 2-1.
After a collaborative effort by starting pitcher Austin Parrish (JR/Ringgold, Ga) and relievers Sam Salyers (JR/Kingsport, Tenn.), Tristan Legault (SO/Mascouche, Quebec), Landon Mosteller (SO/Clarksville, Tenn.), Zane Glass (JR/Murfreesboro, Tenn.), and Ryan LaFever (FR/Baxter, Tenn.) it was Salyers who captured the win with 2.1 innings tossed and two hits, one run, two walks, and two strikeouts collected to lift his record to 2-0.
Behrent led in RBI's with three after going 2-of-4 at the plate and also scored a pair of runs and had one double. Burris and Morhardt each batted in two runs with two hits and a single run scored apiece. Morhardt was the only player to go yard over the three-game series. Weinburger harnessed three hits to lead the team and also scored a team-high three runs along with one RBI. Garcia also connected for multiple hits and closed out the game with one run batted in. Jones and Rita each had one hit and one RBI, respectively, while Rita also scored one run and doubled. Zuttermeister had one hit and one run scored, and Cain was able to grab one RBI.
Only one team stands between Bryan and the end of the regular-season, and the Lions will meet up with them this weekend when they host the Cavaliers of Montreat College (N.C.) for one last opportunity to add three more wins to their overall and conference records. The Lions and Cavs will go head-to-head on Friday, Apr. 28, at 6pm in a single 9-inning game. They will pick up play on Saturday in doubleheader action beginning at 1pm. Bryan will also be celebrating Senior Day on Saturday during the twinbill.
For a complete look at the Bryan Lions Baseball schedule, click here.