After losing a tough pitcher’s duel in the first game (3-2) of a Gulf South Conference doubleheader against Shorter University on Saturday afternoon, Lee rode a solid pitching effort by junior Rob Gustitus in the second game (8-1) to earn a split heading into the rubber match on Sunday afternoon against the visiting Hawks.
The second-game win was the 500th in coach Mark Brew’s 11th season as head coach of the Flames. He has been ranked as one of the top 25 coaches in the Tennessee coaching ranks, and that includes all divisions, including all men and women’s sports.
The split moves Lee’s record to 17-9 overall and 7-7 in the GSC standings. Shorter improved to 15-9 and dropped to 6-8 in the league standings.
GAME 1, Shorter 3, Lee 2
The opener featured the pitching of Lee’s ace Art Vidrio against Shorter’s Banks Woodley. Vidrio hurled 7.1 innings, allowing only four hits, two earned runs, walking two and striking out seven. Banks also worked 7.1 innings, surrendering five hits, one earned run, fanning seven and issuing three free passes. Neither was around to pick up the pitching decision.
The Flames struck for a single run in the first inning when Peyton Meeker lifted a fly ball to right-field that scored Spencer Mossburg with an unearned run. The Hawks came back to tie the game in the fourth when Blaze Vazquez blasted a home run over the left-field wall.
The contest remained the same until Shorter went ahead 2-1 in the top of the eighth inning. The Flames bounced right back in the bottom of the same inning when the game’s hitting star, Nate Wierzgac, singled home Tyler Payne.
The battle rocked along until the top of the 12th inning when Steven Maier’s RBI single plated Patrick Sanderson with what turned out to be the winning run. Shorter scored three runs on eight hits, while the Flames were able to score two runs on nine hits and leave what appeared to be a go ahead run on third with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th inning.
GAME 2, Lee 8, Shorter 1
Gustitus pitched the entire game and threw 125 pitches to give the Flames the badly needed second game win. He allowed only three hits, no earned runs, struck out five and walked three.
Shorter’s Jacob Ramos hurled two scoreless innings and had given up only one run before running into trouble in the fifth inning when the Flames put three big runs on the board. In 4.2 innings, he allowed six hits and three earned runs. Three Hawk pitchers followed the right-hander to the mound and gave up four more runs in the sixth inning to allow the Flames to coast home with the victory.
Wierzgac stroked his fifth homer of the season in game two and scored a pair of runs. Meeker, Jeffrey Chapuran and Geremy Walton also collected two-base knocks. Meeker, Drew Johnson, Chapuran and Walton collected two hits in Lee’s 12-hit attack. Johnson also scored twice and was joined by Chapuran with two RBI each.
“After our pitchers did their job in both games, it was good to see our hitting come around in the second contest,” said coach Brew. “Vidrio and Kit Larson (who pitched three innings of relief) pitched well enough to win most games.” Larson was charged with the first-game loss.
“I was proud of the way Rob (Gustitus) battled in the second game to help us get the win and maybe save our bullpen for tomorrow’s game,” added Brew. “Those Sunday games usually turn out to be high scoring affairs and we will need all the help we can get. Shorter is a vastly improved baseball team from last year.”