ORLANDO, Fla. – The Saint Leo baseball team's bats appeared out-of-sync in the late innings on Friday night as the Lions missed an opportunity at their ninth win of the season when they fell to host Florida Christian College 8-5 at historic Tinker Field.
Things looked solid for the Lions in the first when they quickly jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Cracks started showing in the bottom of the second when FCC batters got to starting pitcher Aaron Brandt for three runs before the Lions were able to register the inning's first out. Saint Leo (8-4) would respond with what was ultimately their final run of the game in the third on a Zach Miller blast to left field to make the margin 5-3, but the host Suns would tie things in the bottom of the frame with two more runs.
With both teams reaching into their bullpens, it would be Florida Christian that would get to the Saint Leo pitching staff with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, both coming with two outs in each respective frame.
On the other side of the ball, it was missed opportunities for the Lions as base running mistakes and quirky plays kept them off the scoreboard for the remainder.
In the Lions' half of the sixth, Saint Leo had two runners on with no outs, but a sacrifice bunt attempt by sophomore Chris Newcomb saw Suns pitcher Kyle Harding bare-hand the ball and toss an off-balance throw to third to get the leading runner just in the nick of time on a play that looked like it would go Saint Leo's way.
The next play, with runners on first and second, saw a hot-shot grounder that was hit to third base flipped over to second for out number two, but the second baseman for the Suns would drop the glove-to-hand transfer in an attempt to turn the double play. The drop sparked the Lions' Ryan Brnovich, who had reached third on the play, to try and swipe home; but the ball beat him to the plate and ended the Lions inning.
It ended up being that kind of game for the Lions, playing at a legendary facility that was long passed its prime on a night that would belong to the hosts as Saint Leo left nine runners on base. The loss also snapped a four-game win-streak for the Lions.
Down by three after a Suns solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, the Lions put runners on the corners with two outs in their last at-bat. Any sort of rally would be squashed by the relief pitcher that was responsible for the eighth-inning homer as Andres Cancio got pinch hitter Brendan Collins to pop out to first to end the game.
The loss soured an impressive night at the plate by Miller as he went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a home run. Left fielder Michael Revell also had a solid night at bat, going 3-for-3 with an RBI, collecting the only triple of the night.
Brandt would not factor in the decision for the Lions as he tossed three innings and surrendered five runs. The loss would go to reliever Shaun Gough (1-1) who was the pitcher of record when FCC took their final lead. Gough surrendered just two runs on six hits in three-plus innings of work.
The win went to Florida Christian reliever Kyle Harding (1-0), who's nearly two innings of work shut the Lions' bats down. Two infielders would take to the hill after Harding and only surrender two hits in the final three innings, with Cancio picking up the save.
The Lions will have the weekend to recover before welcoming Clearwater Christian back to Southard Stadium on Tuesday evening in February's final game. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. For the latest news, information, and updates on Lions' Baseball, visit SaintLeoLions.com.