West Florida made the most of only four hits and avoided a sweep against the visiting Lee baseball team on Saturday afternoon at Jim Spooner Field. The Argos tallied a single run in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 2-1 win.
The Flames rode outstanding pitching to a 5-2 victory in Saturday’s opener after posting a 1-0 win on Friday evening. Winning two of three against the fifth-ranked West Florida team improved Lee’s record to 20-22 overall and 10-12 in the important Gulf South Conference standings.
After a non-conference game at Tusculum, the Flames will return to Olympic Field for another key series with University of Montevallo on Friday and Saturday.
“What a tremendous performance by the team today. As disappointed as I was we didn’t get the sweep, I’m equally proud of how we played all weekend. West Florida has a great pitching staff and a great program and it’s an awesome accomplishment for us to get this series on the road,” praised Lee head coach Mark Brew after his club took two-of-three from the nation’s fifth-ranked team.
Game Two - West Florida 2, Lee 1
The Flames got solid pitching in the final game of the three-game series. Michael Hendricks started and hurled the first 2.1 innings. He did not surrender a hit or run but had control problems, walking five while striking out three. Thomas Zazzaro made his second mound appearance of the day and gave Lee four quality innings. He allowed three hits and two earned runs and was tagged with the loss. Randall Coxwell came on to face the final batter and gave up a hit which plated the winning run.
The Argos took advantage of only four hits in the victory. In the seventh, Matt Sullivan led off the inning with a single. Matthew Estrada was hit by a pitch. Coxwell came on in relief of Zazzaro and Trevor Payne singled as the Argos put the baserunners in motion, allowing Sullivan to score the winning run.
The Flames took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Justin Fragale singled home Miguel Pimentel after Pimentel and Alan Smith had one-base hits. The Flames got big defensive plays from Tyler Payne and Parker Stahlman in turning back an Argo scoring threat in the fourth inning.
However, the Flames could not take advantage of nine hits. Zazzaro collected three hits, Pimentel and Fragale had two apiece, while Smith and Justen Freeman also singled.
“We had some great swings all game long, but we just couldn’t seem to get that big knock when we needed it. Zazzaro swung it well and did a nice job on the mound settling us down early. We had our chances, but they made some big pitches when they needed to,” commented Coach Brew.
Andrew Vaccacio pitched the first six innings for the Argos. He gave up eight hits but just one earned run, walking one and fanning eight. Jared Middleton came in for the seventh inning and picked up the victory. He gave up a hit, two free passes and a strikeout.
Game One – Lee 5, West Florida 2
For the second straight day Lee shocked West Florida, the fifth-ranked team in the nation, by scoring three runs in the top of the seventh inning and added an insurance run in the eighth to claim the opener of Saturday’s Gulf South Conference doubleheader, 5-2.
Both teams scored single runs in the first inning and then waited until the seventh frame when the Flames tallied three runs. The Argos fought back with a single tally and left the tying runs on second and third. In the eighth, Thomas Zazzaro doubled to left center, scoring Alan Smith for the game’s final tally. In the first inning, Lee loaded the bases and Miguel Pimentel scored on an infield hit by Justin Fragale.
Freshman Alex Butler was outstanding in recording the pitching win. He worked 6.2 innings before giving way to Brandon Thompson, who worked the next 1.1 innings and retired a big out in the bottom of the seventh. Zazzaro pitched a perfect ninth inning and picked up his third save. Butler allowed six hits, one earned run, fanned five and walked three while throwing 110 pitches and evened his record at 3-3 on the year.
“Butler really stepped up to the challenge and traded zeros with (Tony) Kucera until we could get the big inning late. Zazzaro did an excellent job closing the door and (Tyler) Payne had the two tremendous defensive plays in the ninth,” pointed out Coach Brew.
The Flames flashed the leather in the fifth inning to turn back an Argo rally when Smith made a running catch in left-center field and Zazzaro came up with a diving stop at shortstop to force a runner at second.
Justen Freeman got the Lee winning rally started in the seventh when he doubled to the gap in left-center field while Parker Stahlman was hit by a pitch and the Flames were in business with runners at first and second with no outs. Zazzaro put down a bunt and the Argo pitcher elected to try to nail Freeman at third. The throw was late and the bases were loaded.
Fernando Ortiz put the Flames ahead for good when he lifted a fly ball to right field that scored Freeman with the sacrifice fly. A throwing error by the West Florida third baseman scored Stahlman and Smith singled to right to push Zazzaro across the dish and put the Flames up 4-2.
Lee made the best of seven hits with Ortiz leading the way with a pair of knocks. Pimentel, Smith, Fragale, Freeman and Stahlman had the other hits. No Argo player had more than one hit.