FLORENCE — Seeking its first ever three-game baseball sweep of UAH at home, North Alabama couldn’t make a seven-run lead hold up Sunday.
The Lions, who scored eight of the game’s first nine runs, gave up the final nine runs to UAH in the final four innings, dropping a 10-8 decision in the series finale at Mike Lane Field.
UNA (13-10, 5-4 Gulf South Conference) led 8-1 after five innings and took an 8-3 lead into the seventh, where the Chargers scored five runs on six hits against four Lions pitchers to tie it.
UAH (20-6, 6-2 GSC) scored twice more in the top of the ninth for its first lead, both runs coming across with two outs after UNA thought it had gotten out of the inning.
With two on, two out in the ninth, Lions reliever Eric Wilson delivered a waist-high, two-strike fastball that appeared to catch the inside half of the plate. It was called a ball, and UAH batter Cody Burton later capitalized with an infield single to shortstop.
Blake Massey scored the go-ahead run on the play, overrunning third base and scoring on UNA’s first-to-third throw behind him.
The Chargers added an insurance run on Justin Pearson’s RBI single, and the Lions ended a last-chance, two-on, one-out threat in the bottom of the ninth with a ground-ball double play to second.
“I just don’t want to be in a position where there are two teams playing really hard, and there are situations beyond the control of both teams,” UNA coach Mike Keehn said when asked about the pivotal call. “That’s what’s most disappointing, especially when our pitchers are working their tails off. It’s disappointing to do as well as we did this weekend, play as well as we did, to basically have it taken out of our hands.”
UAH homered twice and pounded out 20 hits in all, including 14 in the final four innings and nine in the final 2 2/3 against UNA’s relief pitchers.
In the five-run seventh inning, six straight Chargers batters reached base with one out.
UAH chased UNA starter Cade Medley after a double and fly ball to right field to start the inning.
Daymon Eriksen came on in relief and gave up a walk and an RBI double to the two batters he faced.
Jacob Westerhouse took over and gave up three straight singles and two runs before Wilson inherited a bases-loaded one-out jam.
UAH scored twice more in the inning on an RBI single by Massey (3-for-4) and a fielder’s choice to tie it at 8.
Wilson (2-1) took the loss, allowing five hits and two earned runs while striking out three in 2 2/3 innings.
Medley, who allowed four runs on 11 hits and struck out four, defended the Lions’ bullpen.
“It’s tough to battle an umpire for a strike zone,” he said. “We’re taught to throw them on the corners, and that’s what we were doing, but we weren’t getting the calls.
“You can’t put it on the corners because they’re not calling it, and you can’t put it over the middle because they’ll put it over the fence. It’s very difficult, very frustrating.”
The ending soured a strong start by the Lions, who scored four runs on five hits in the first and added two more on three hits in the second for a 6-1 lead.
Andrew Almon had an RBI-single in the first, Bradley Noland followed with a two-run double and Josh Carpenter drew a bases-loaded walk to force in a run.
Haleyville product Jud Sherrill (3-for-5, two RBIs) hit a solo homer for UAH in the top of the second.
UNA responded in the bottom of the frame with a Dylan Boston RBI double and a run-scoring single by Matthew Tittle (3-for-5). The Lions tacked on two more in the fifth, when Noland (2-for-4) and Thomas Lundborg both singled and scored on Jake Ward’s two-out single.
A leadoff homer by Vincent Kortbawi (3-for-5, two RBIs) in the sixth started the Chargers’ comeback. Massey (3-for-4, two RBIs) added an RBI single in the inning.
Josh Doyle batted 3-for-5 for UNA, while Chase Handley was 3-for-5 for UAH.
UNA’s next scheduled game is part of a series-opening doubleheader Saturday at West Florida.
Despite Sunday’s setback, the Lions, who have lost seven of eight road games, look to take some momentum into Pensacola after winning two of three this weekend.
“It’s a lot better than it has been,” Noland said. “We’re competing. I think we have that fire back. Everybody wants to win. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or bryan.app@TimesDaily.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|