TAMPA, Fla. – Saint Leo baseball gave third-ranked University of Tampa all it could handle before falling to the Spartans, 6-5, in the Lions' Sunshine State Conference opener on Friday night at UT Baseball Field.
With the score tied at 5-5 after the sixth inning, Tampa got the game-winning run aboard in the ninth on Richie Rivera's leadoff double. The Spartans' Danny Lee laid down a bunt to the left of the pitcher's mound to advance Rivera to third, and a Saint Leo error allowed Rivera to score for the win.
Saint Leo had an opportunity to get a go-ahead run of its own in the eighth, when Mike Mann reached on an error to open the frame. A fielder's choice grounder put Zach Scott at first base instead of Mann, and Scott advanced to third on Derek Gibree's two-out double down the left field line.
Lane Stancil drew a walk to load up the bases, but Cheyne Bickel induced a grounder to second to get Tampa out of the jam.
Tampa took advantage of a leadoff walk in the third to knot the game at 1-1, and took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Chris Gaffney's solo shot to left field.
The Lions rallied with a two-run fifth inning on three hits. Nick Boland led the frame with a double down the right field line, and Zach Scott drew a walk. Both runners advanced on a beautifully executed bunt down the first base line by Derek Gibree, and back-to-back singles by Stancil and Harris plated Boland then Scott to give Saint Leo a 3-2 lead.
Tampa regained a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth on J.D. Osborne's two-run double down the left field line. The Lions promptly answered with a pair of runs on three hits in the top of the sixth, including RBI singles by Scott and Stancil.
The Saint Leo lead was short-lived, as Tampa again tied the game up at 5-5 in the sixth inning on a solo home run by Darren Miller.
Stancil and Williams each finished with three hits for the Lions, while Stancil charted a pair of runs batted in. Alec Lamrouex took the loss from his 1 1/3 inning relief stint, after coming on for starter Tyler Bauman in the seventh inning. Bauman scattered five hits and allowed just one walk while allowing five runs, four earned, with four strikeouts over his 6 2/3 innings of work.
Tampa reliever Cheyne Bickel got credit for the win; he pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief work after starter Garrett Cave surrendered five runs, all earned, on nine hits to the Lions.
Saint Leo and Tampa complete the three-game SSC series on Saturday, March 11, with a doubleheader starting at 3:00 p.m. at the UT Baseball Field.
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