The Bryan College softball team managed just a 1-3 mark at the Georgia Gwinnett Tournament, but the competition was nothing short of challenging for the Lions. They faced College of Coastal Georgia, who is currently receiving votes, and 5th-ranked Georgia Gwinnett College. After coming up short in one-run decisions to both impressive teams earlier on, Bryan capped the event with an 8-7 upset of the top-ranked Grizzlies in extra innings to conclude their time in Lawrenceville, Ga. On Tuesday, the Lions rode that momentum into another non-conference bout, this time away at Mid-South Conference foe Cumberland University, who entered the meeting with just one loss on the season.
Bryan broke free for a five-run rally in the top of the third to get the scoring going before tacking on another in the fourth. The Phoenix responded in the fifth with a four-spot and two more in the seventh, but the Lions extinguished the flames with two game-deciding runs in the top of the sixth to win 8-6. With the win, Bryan improves to 4-5 overall while lowering Cumberland to just 7-2. It looked as though the Lions could notch a sweep until game two was called off because of darkness, forcing a cancellation.
Lindsey Dunn registered her first win of the season, hurling the first 5.1 frames and holding the Phoenix to seven hits and three runs, one of which was earned, while walking a pair of batters. Stephanie Blevins closed the final 1.2 innings and allowed three hits and three earned runs.
Offensively, it was Jarica Ensley who finished with a team-high three connections at the plate, followed by Addy Keylon with a pair of hits, two runs scored, one run batted in, and one stolen base. Hannah O’Shields, Maryah Sober, and Leslie Beecham ended with one hit apiece, as the Lions trailed the Phoenix in total hits 8-10. O’Shields and Brianna Nagelhout tied each other with a team-best two RBIs while Brooke Belflower, Dunn, and Tesla Huling posted one RBI, respectively. Huling also snagged a lone stolen bag for Bryan.
The Lions’ only extra-base hit was completed by Sober and sparked the sudden burst of runs in the top of the third, as Sober drove a leadoff double to left-center. Runners were put on the corners with no outs when Beecham reached first on a fielding error. Sober came in for the score when Huling reached on a fielder’s choice. The pressure kept building when Keylon loaded the bases with a single down the left-field line. Beecham used her speed to score when Dunn sailed a sacrifice-fly to center. The bases remained loaded when Nagelhout was hit by a pitch, putting Huling in scoring position at third. Belflower was awarded the RBI on her groundout that scored Huling before O’Shields helped the next two runs come across when Nagelhout and Keylon scored on her two-run single to right-field in creating a 5-0 advantage for the Lions.
Huling helped add another run on for Bryan when she was walked in the fourth, stole second, and then capitalized on Keylon’s RBI single to center. Three hits, two walks, and one error later Cumberland was able to tally four runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut the deficit to two, 6-4. The Lions added on their final two runs of the contest in the sixth when Beecham led off with a single, Keylon was walked, and an error by the Phoenix’ center-fielder resulted in both Beecham and Keylon scoring. The insurance runs proved crucial in the outcome when Cumberland collected a pair of runs in the seventh, as Bryan held on to win 8-6.
More tough opponents await the Lions in the upcoming NFCA/NAIA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. this weekend, Feb. 28-29. Bryan will get a look at (RV) University of Rio Grande (Ohio) and Warner University (Fla.) on Friday at 10 a.m. and 12 noon before a doubleheader against 12th-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University on Saturday starting at 2 p.m.