MELBOURNE, Fla. – Charles Neely tossed a complete-game four-hitter as he led the Saint Leo baseball team to a 4-0 shutout win over host Florida Tech in the opening game of a Sunshine State Conference doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. The Panthers would rebound to claim the nightcap 12-6.
Neely came out firing on all cylinders. The Panthers (24-17, 9-8 SSC) opened up the game with a leadoff hit and the base runner would eventually advance to third base before the Lions worked their way out of the inning. It would be the only time a Florida Tech player would be 90 feet away from scoring for the remainder of the game.
Earning his fifth win of 2012, Neely (5-4) struck out five and faced just 31 batters as he appeared firmly in control for the entirety, with all four hits from the Panther bats registering singles.
All of the Saint Leo (21-17, 4-11 SSC) offense was grouped across the second through fourth innings with the Lions starting the second and third frames with successful bunts for hits. Two RBI singles from Zach Miller and Daniel Torres, a throwing error and a wild pitch gave the Lions their four runs and enough of a margin for Neely to wrap up his win.
The third inning was the difference-maker in the series-deciding game as a bases-loaded, no-out scenario resulted in eight Panther runs and opened up a 10-1 lead that FIT was able to maintain through the final four frames. It was also a game that saw the usually sure-handed Lions fielders commit five errors, while Florida Tech remained unblemished.
Using just Neely in the opener, Saint Leo Head Coach Russ McNickle was forced to go to his bullpen three times in the nightcap with starter Aaron Brandt (4-4) picking up the loss. Brandt worked just two innings and surrendered duties to his bullpen with the bases loaded in the third.
Cody Lewis (1-2) picked up the Panthers' win, going five innings and allowing four runs.
Despite the day's split and the series loss, Zach Miller managed to go a combined 5-for-8 with an RBI. Dustin Brown went 2-for-4 with two doubles in the doubleheader.
Traveling to Ft. Lauderdale and Melbourne in the last two conference series, the Lions finally return home as they welcome Eckerd College on Friday. The first game of the three game set is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. at Southard Stadium. For the latest news, information, and updates on Lions Baseball as Saint Leo returns home, visit SaintLeoLions.com.