On February 12 the Bulldogs scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and posted a 4-3 win over the Flames. Lee returned the favor on March 27, rising up from a 3-0 deficit going into the top of the eighth to top the ninth-ranked Bulldogs in a 10-inning thriller, by the same 4-3 margin.
Wesleyan had ridden a double, single and two-RBI afternoon by Branden Walker to grab a 3-0 lead heading into the eighth. Lefty Brent Adheen had given the Lee hitters plenty of problems with his off-speed pitches for 5 2/3 innings. He got into a jam in the sixth, but Justin Sprenger came out of the bullpen to end the rally.
The Flames were on the ropes and it appeared TWC would land another knockout punch when Derrick Pitts stepped to the dish with two outs and doubled to deep right in the eighth. Junior Cameron Brewster was called on to pinch hit and the left-handed hitter delivered in a big way, drilling a long drive over the right-field fence and cutting the margin to 3-2.
Coach Mark Brew hit the nail right on the head when he said, “Brewster’s swing of the bat was huge momentum shift for us.”
In the ninth the Flames struck again to tie the battle at 3. With two outs, Danny Canela ripped a solid single to right. Trevor Burgess, who can on to run for Canela, reached second when Corey Davis walked. Karsten Strieby stroked a looping single to left that scored Burgess and tied the contest.
The tense affair carried into extra innings before the Flames could strike the winning blow in the 10th. Chris Avey reached on a perfect bunt single down the third base line. “Avey’s bunt set the stage to complete the comeback,” said Brew, whose Flames had been voted No. 1 by the NAIA just one day earlier.
Mark Silva followed with a bunt that was misplayed by the TWC pitcher. Brady Renner did his job by moving Avey to third and Silva to second as Lee played small ball. Josh Silver popped out and with two outs and Canela received an intentional walk. With the bases loaded, Davis worked the count to 3-2 before drawing a free pass and pushing Avey across the plate with what turned out to be the winning run.
“They pitched us well early and we stranded a ton of runners (16), but we kept battling,” commented Brew. “We showed a lot of character, bouncing back against a really good TWC team. It’s always a tough place to win and it was a great comeback for our team.”
Pitching again proved to be a key factor in Lee’s 27th win of the year against seven defeats. Keegan Yuhl started and gave his team 5 2/3 innings of eight-hit ball. He fanned eight and walked four. Jeremy Stawychny came on for 1 1/3 inning and allowed one hit. However, it was the flame-throwing Andy Hillis who had the crowd buzzing as the big right-hander chalked up his second win with three innings of hitless ball.
Hillis faced nine Bulldog hitters and struck out seven. “It was a great team win for us,’ noted Brew. “Our bullpen was huge as Stawychny and Hillis gave us the opportunity to climb back in it.’
Silva and Avey had a double and single to pace the Lee 12-hit attack. Canela and Strieby also collected a pair of hits. TWC posted nine hits with David Donald joining Walker with a double and single. The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 25-10.