SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo baseball team shook off the struggles of the past weekend's series as they dominated visiting Valdosta State 16-8 in NCAA Division II South Region action at Thomas B. Southard Stadium on Wednesday night.
The win gives Saint Leo its 19th victory of the season, matching the mark the Lions put up for the whole of 2011 as they are now 19-11 overall and with just half the season in the books. Valdosta State heads back to Georgia 15-10 overall.
"It was a good regional win for us," Head Coach Russ McNickle said. "We needed some offense and we got it with Brendan Collins going 0-2 and getting on base, and we were able to get some home runs there, back-to-back. They answered (in the fifth inning) and we came right back and answered again. I thought it was really neat to see our offense do what we've been doing a lot early in the year, but as we start the second half it was neat to see the runs and see our guys play well."
It was an evening where the Lions matched, and eventually bested the visiting Blazers through the middle innings. Back-to-back homers by Chris Newcomb and Zach Miller in the fourth inning helped the Lions take a 5-2 lead, but VSU would respond to knot things in the fifth.
The Lions would put an exclamation point on the ballgame with a five-run fifth inning that saw the Blazers use three pitchers to get out of the frame. With the advantage now 10-5, the Lions would manage to hold the visitors off, save for a three-spot in the ninth inning, for the rest of the game.
In a game that saw a combined 39 players register playing time, and was the Lions' longest this season at three hours and 40 minutes, the win went to reliever Shaun Gough. Gough (2-1) was the pitcher of record when the lead switched hands for the final time. He came in for starter Ryan Sadler who managed 4.2 innings of work, surrendering four runs before being sidelined by injury.
A battery of seven Valdosta State pitchers took to the hill with Zach John (0-1) picking up the loss.
An astounding number of multiple-hit outings greeted the Lions on the final stat print out as Miller led the way with a 5-for-6 night racking up four RBI and two runs scored. His name was all over the final stats as he also added a double to his fourth-inning round-tripper.
Collins, whose work at the plate with two outs kept the fourth inning going, went 4-for-5 in the leadoff spot and is now batting over .400 for the season.
Valdosta State's Ryan Noelte was unblemished at the plate as he went 3-for-3. VSU's Cameron Graves and Bryant Hayman went 2-for-4 and 3-for-4 respectively as both were responsible for six of the Blazers' eight runs.
The Lions will continue to host out-of-conference play when Palm Beach Atlantic University comes to town for a weekend series. The first game of the three-game battle is scheduled to get underway on Friday night at 6 p.m. For the latest news, information, and updates on the baseball team, visit SaintLeoLions.com.