In what had to be an unofficial Southern States Athletic Conference record, Lee and Auburn Montgomery tangled in a three-game series and all three baseball contests went into extra innings. The Flames won on Friday evening 5-4 in 12 innings. The WarHawks bounced back to claim the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, 8-7 in eight innings and Lee claimed the final affair, 7-6 in another eight-inning thriller.
Jorge Saez delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth to score pinch-runner Mike Fasolo with the winning run. The dramatic ending came when AUM center fielder Brian Wheeler fielded the hit by Saez and threw a perfect strike to the plate. Fasolo tried to slide around the tag by catcher Michael Dugan and the umpire quickly flashed the out signal. However, the ball rolled away from the catcher and gave the Flames the huge win.
"Saez was the best player on the field in this series," said coach Mark Brew after his Flames improved to 42-8-1 on the year and 23-4 in SSAC play. "I really don't know what I was thinking, I probably should have held Fasolo at third. We had an All-American hitter coming up next but I felt we had to take a chance at this point in the game."
Lee scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth and enjoyed a 6-3 lead, but the visitors were not about to go away without a fight. They came back to score three runs in the top of the fifth and help set up another extra inning battle. "Give both teams credit," added Brew. "They both battled and fought all the way. I'm proud of our kids because there is no quit in them but errors helped keep AUM alive in all three games and that's something we've got to keep working to guard against."
Saez finished the day with a double and single. He posted three key RBIs and scored once. Blake Barber had his best game of the series with three hits and two RBI. Brady Renner had a single, knocked in a run and scored once.
Taylor Comford helped get the winning rally started in the eighth inning. He singled and Fasolo came on to pinch run. Renner put down a sacrifice bunt to push Fasolo to second and Saez delivered the key knock. Comford also had an RBI in the win.
Vince Spilker (5-2) went all the way for the pitching victory. "Vince continues to do an outstanding job of keeping us in games and giving us a chance to win," noted Brew. "He threw only 93 pitches in eight innings. He gave up four earned runs but deserved better. A couple of errors set up some scoring opportunities for AUM."
The WarHawks (31-20, 18-9) used four pitchers in the loss. It was Tyler Dent who gave up the winning run in the eighth and was charged with the loss. Hunter Cross drove in three runs and contributed a double to the AUM attack. Chezz McCann added a double and Wes Hughes drove in two runs with a triple.
Mike Moore helped save the day for the Flames with a leaping catch in the top of the seventh and Roberto Duran saved another run when he made a diving stop from his third-base position in the fifth.
The contest went back and forth for eight innings before McCann walked in the eighth inning and later scored on what turned out to be a game-winning single by Jorden Johnson. Lee out-hit the visitors 12-9 but left nine runners on base.
Mike Moore was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate and knocked in three runs while scoring another. Saez continued his torrid hitting with a pair of singles, one run scored and an RBI.
The Flames got a pair of hits from Edmanuel Rivera, while Renner, Barber, Duran, Trevor Burgess and Fasolo had one hit each. Renner scored two runs while Duran, Burgess and Fasolo posted RBIs.
The Flames used five hurlers in the defeat. Patrick Merkling worked five innings and allowed four earned runs. Kyle Briner gave up three hits and two earned runs. Joe Fabre followed and surrendered an earned run. James Rechenbach did his job and retired one hitter and Andy Hillis did the same. Fabre was charged with the defeat.
The WarHawks ushered three hurlers to the mound. Andrew Morris was the starter. He surrendered seven hits and five earned runs, but it was Michael Carden who came on to work the final 2 2/3 innings and pick up the pitching victory. Cardin gave up two hits but did not allow the Flames to score, improving his record to 4-3 on the year.
Lee will take a needed break before returning to action on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and face Tennessee Wesleyan. "It's another big game for our team as we try to protect a high ranking in the NAIA poll," noted Brew. "It is also the rubber match in this series. Wesleyan won the first meeting but we came back to win last week and it will be another tough battle for our guys."
The Flames will end the regular season next Friday and Saturday when they travel to Jackson, Miss. for a three game series against a talented Belhaven team.