The six-run inning was enough to give the 14th ranked Bulldogs an 8-5 advantage and Lee (30-8) could not overcome the deficit in the 8-7 defeat to the longtime rival.
Lee starter Keegan Yuhl appeared to be sailing along before he got into trouble with one out in the sixth inning. Coach Mark Brew quickly went to his bullpen and called on Jeremy Stawychny, who had been lights out the entire season. After the Bulldogs collected six hits and four earned runs against Yuhl, they countered with three earned runs and three hits off Stawychny.
Cumberland’s Chris Hall highlighted the six-run inning with a three-run, line-drive homer over the right field wall. Hall finished the contest with three hits including a double to go along with his jack-shot. He also scored twice. Tyler Anderson did his share of the damage with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.
All totaled, Cumberland collected 11 hits against four Lee hurlers. Davis Eskew worked a scoreless seventh inning and Andy Hillis pitched shutout ball in the eighth and ninth. The pitching of Eskew and Hillis allowed the Flames an opportunity to scramble back into the contest and almost pull out a victory.
Lee scored two runs in the eighth inning to make it an 8-7 game. Karsten Strieby was hit by a pitch and Mark Silva followed with a one-base hit. Strieby scored on an error by the Cumberland first baseman and Brandon Rader pushed Silva across the plate with a sacrifice fly to right.
Derrick Pitts was the Flames’ leading hitter. He ripped a pair of doubles, scored once and posted an RBI. Strieby and Silva also had two hits, two runs scored and an RBI. Rader had a hit and two RBIs, while Danny Canela doubled to round out Lee’s 11-hit attack.
“It is the first time this year that we have been in this type of situation,” said coach Brew. “Usually our pitching has been good enough to carry us but tonight we certainly hit the ball well enough to win but we didn’t get the needed result from our pitchers. Cumberland has a good team and I knew they would not go away without a fight. It appeared we were in pretty good shape with a 5-1 lead and maybe we might have let up just bit in the sixth. Really, I’m not that disappointed with our overall effort.”
Brew also pointed out that his club had several hard-hit balls that the Bulldogs were able to turn into outs. “They were playing their outfielders deep and were willing to give up singles but not allow anything to go over their heads.” Hall, the Bulldogs center-fielder, made a pair of catches up against the 400-foot sign and two hard-hit balls banged off Cumberland pitchers and resulted in outs.
Nick Conley, who worked 4 2/3 innings, was credited with the pitching decision. Conley took a shot off his glove hand, but continued to hurl two more innings. He allowed four hits, no earned runs and struck out one Flame. Kevin Greene pitched in the ninth inning and was credited with the save. Stawychny (2-1) was charged with the defeat.
The Flames will return to action on Friday and begin a three-game nonconference series against Talladega College. On Saturday, Lee will host Military Appreciation Day. The activities are scheduled to run from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m.