MELBOURNE, Fla. – The Saint Leo baseball team gave up a golden opportunity to take a win out of their series against Florida Tech, but the SLU bullpen surrendered a six run lead in the bottom of the ninth innings as the host Panthers came back to claim a 7-6, 11-inning win in the final game of the Sunshine State Conference series on Sunday afternoon.
Facing a 6-0 deficit heading into the bottom of the ninth, Florida Tech’s Jose Vazquez got the rally started with a one-out infield single. Then two straight walks loaded the bases for designated hitter Gus Fernandez who took advantage of a pitching change and crushed a ball into the right center gap to clear the bases and cut Saint Leo’s lead in half. Senior Michael Demma stepped up next and snuck an RBI single down the left field line to bring in Fernandez and make it a 6-4 game.
Ryan McChesney took one for the team in his at bat, taking his base to advance Demma to second. Scheffer then came up with his first clutch RBI of the day with a shot through the right side after another SLU pitching change to send Demma home and Chris Fox over to third after he came in to pinch run for McChesney. With runners on the corners, Josh Hinkle came followed and slipped one through the left side to score Fox and tie the game. Looking to stop the scoring, Lions’ head coach Russ McNickle inserted reliever Henry Johnson, who was able to retire Tech’s next two batters to send the game into extra innings.
Panther reliever Brandon Lindquist and the Florida Tech (38-13, 14-10 SSC) defense came up big in the 10th and 11th against the Lions. The Saint Leo (17-33, 4-17 SSC) defense would not be so lucky, however. With one away in the bottom of the 11th, Brian Flynn turned what may have been a single into an extra base hit out to left with his speedy trip around the base path. And that made all the difference for the Panthers as Scheffer was next up and drilled an 0-1 pitch up the middle which took a very fortunate bounce off the mound and into center, giving Flynn enough time to race home for the win.
Saint Leo was led by Kory Wan with a 2-for-3 effort, driving in three of the Lions’ runs while also scoring one. SLU notched a pair of runs in the fifth and the seventh, tacking on one more in both the eighth and ninth to pull away from the Panthers, before the hosts mounted their comeback.
The Lions will look to rebound from the series sweep as they travel to Lakeland to face Southeastern University on Wednesday evening. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.