SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo baseball team picked up their ninth-straight win Friday night, defeating the visiting Rollins College Tars by a 9-8 score after 15 long innings. The triumph marked the Lions' seventh-straight victory in Sunshine State Conference action, pushing Saint Leo over the .500 mark in SSC play.
After a scoreless first inning, the Lions jumped on the board first, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second inning for the defining lead of the game. Freshman Alex Mata led off the inning with a single, and after a groundout moved him into scoring position, a single through the right side from senior Chris Newcomb advanced Mata to third. An RBI single from sophomore Taylor Perez then scored Mata, and Newcomb was able to advance to second. After a flyout sent Newcomb to third base, an RBI single from junior Dale Irving allowed Newcomb to score, giving the Lions a 2-0 lead.
The Lions tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Mata again led off the inning and crossed the plate on a Rollins double play.
The next two innings featured two more Saint Leo runs, as Dale Irving knocked in an RBI single in the fifth and an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth to put the Lions up 5-0.
Despite six scoreless at-bats prior, the Rollins offense exploded for four runs in the top of the seventh inning to come within one run of the Lions' lead. The damage came on two singles, two doubles, and a Saint Leo error.
The Tars tied the score at 5-5 in the top of the eighth, thanks to an RBI double from junior catcher Evan Rivera.
Refusing defeat, the Lions' responded in the bottom of the eighth inning to score two runs and take a 7-5 lead. It was Taylor Perez who led off the inning with a double to left field. After a walk and a Rollins wild pitch, the Lions were granted two runners in scoring position, just in time for an intentional walk to Nick Perez that loaded the bases. With one out and no room on base, sophomore Dylan Harris reached on a fielder's choice that scored T. Perez. On the next play, senior Fran Whitten ripped a single to left-centerfield that allowed N. Perez to score and gave the Lions a two-run lead.
A two-run homerun by freshman Danny Hendricks tied the game at 7-7 in the top of the ninth, forcing extra innings.
Despite threatening in almost every at-bat, the Lions and Tars went scoreless for the next five innings, pushing deep into the night with their 15-inning campaign. In the bottom of the fifteenth, however, junior Jordan Taylor took first base on a leadoff walk, advancing to second on a wild pitch and taking third after walks to Cole Stancil and Chris Newcomb. Saint Leo hitter Taylor Perez was then thrown a wild pitch, which allowed Jordan Taylor to take home plate and propelled the Lions to a walk-off victory.
Sophomore Michael Dunnigan took the mound for the Lions in the Friday night showdown, tossing 6.2 innings and allowing nine hits, no walks and striking out three in the outing. With two outs in the top of the seventh, senior lefty Brandon Terry came in for relief duties, allowing six hits and striking out four in 3.2 innings of work. In the top of the tenth inning, junior Tyrone Miller took the mound for the Lions, throwing 4.2 innings and eventually earning the win. He allowed just one hit in the outing.
The Lions and Tars will wrap up play in the weekend's Sunshine State Conference three-game series on Saturday, April 12 when the squads compete in an afternoon doubleheader. First pitch of the day is set for 3:00 p.m. at Thomas B. Southard Stadium on the campus of Saint Leo University.
For more on the Saint Leo baseball team, visit SaintLeoLions.com. Also, be sure to 'Like' the Lions on Facebook and 'Follow' Saint Leo Athletics on Twitter and Instagram.