SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo baseball team used timely hitting in the opening game of a three-game series with visiting Columbus State (Ga.) as Ryan Powers blasted a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie and eventually send the Lions to the 6-2 win. The Cougars relied on their pitching for the equalizer in the nightcap as Columbus State pitchers Iain Sebastian and Tyler Carpenter combined to toss a seven-inning no-hitter in a 6-0 defeat of Saint Leo.
The split sends Saint Leo to 2-2 for the season while Columbus St. is now 3-2.
Cody Johnson (1-0) managed the game one win in relief while Marshall Stalvey earned the save for SLU. Ironically, Stalvey (0-1) also managed a loss as he was the starter and pitcher of record for the Lions in game two.
The Lions were quick on the scoreboard in the first game as they scored twice in their first at bat. Ryan Brnovich led the game off with a single and a sacrifice bunt by Taylor McGillis moved him over to second. A walk issued to Powers, and an aggressive double steal had runners in scoring position. Jason Hamm lofted a single down the right field line that scored both runners, but the senior would be caught trying to stretch his base hit into a double. Despite the out, the Lions had gained a 2-0 advantage.
Aaron Brandt, starting his second game of the season, gave up a home run leading off the second inning, but the junior would settle down and put three scoreless innings on the board.
The Lions’ 2-1 advantage would disappear in the sixth when the Cougars third baseman Bruce Alter smacked a long ball out of left field that knotted the game.
The home run was the first indication that Brandt was beginning to tire as he loaded the bases in the same frame. He even relied on the SLU defense to collect an out at home when a Columbus State runner tried to advance home on a base hit. Hamm, McGillis and Dustin Brown linked up to keep the score tied.
With two outs in top of the sixth head coach Russ McNickle inserted Johnson to try and get the Lions out of a bases-loaded situation. Johnson did exactly what McNickle had hoped, catching the batter looking with a 2-2 pitch that caught the outside corner and ended the inning.
The Lions would retake the lead an inning later when Chris Newcomb’s one-out single and Brnovich’s hit-by-pitch had two runners on base. A strike out put Powers in the position to give the advantage back to SLU for good.
Dustin Brown widened the margin with an opposite field home run an inning later and Stalvey came in to pick up the save as the Lions secured the victory.
It would be a different story in game two as Sebastian and Carpenter linked up to keep the Lions bats quiet. Although the Lions benefitted from seven walks, only three runners would advance to scoring position, with just one of those players reaching third base.
The final, deciding game of the series will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at Thomas B. Southard Stadium on the Saint Leo campus.