With surging Andres Nelo and freshman pitcher Rob Gustitus leading the way, Lee advanced to round two of the NCCAA Mid-East Region with a convincing 12-0 victory over Hiwassee College on Tuesday evening at Olympic Field.
The Flames face a quick turnaround on Wednesday when they battle Gulf South Conference opponent Union University in the finals of the winner’s bracket. Union needed 13 innings before getting past Morthland College (Ill.) 12-10 in Tuesday’s opening game. In the 3:30 contest, Hiwassee earned the right to challenge the Flames by defeating Johnson University, 11-8. The Tigers will face the winner of Johnson and Morthland in a loser’s bracket game on Wednesday at noon.
Gustitus (2-0) allowed only three hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked just two. “We really didn’t intend for Rob to go the distance,” said coach Mark Brew, who watched his Flames score their eighth straight victory and improve to 31-17 on the year. “Rob only threw 94 pitches and worked himself out of a couple of early jams before settling down and giving us his best effort of the season.”
Nelo, who has been swinging a hot bat of late, contributed to the victory in several categories. He was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate, scored four runs and drove in three more. “Andres did a lot of good things for us tonight,” commented Brew. “He executed a bunt that resulted in an RBI, plus scored a run when we broke the contest open with four runs in the fourth inning. He had a triple in the sixth inning that helped us put the 10-run rule into play. We also cannot overlook his outstanding defensive play.”
Three other Flames had two hits apiece as the Brew crew recorded a 14-hit attack against three Hiwassee hurlers. Siosi Poti also put down a perfect squeeze bunt. He finished with two hits and two runs scored. Derrick Pitts contributed a pair of singles. He scored a run and knocked in one. Blake Ray helped Lee’s top five hitters in the batting order register nine hits by blasting a long triple and a single. He had an RBI and a run scored.
Freshman Cameron Scott stroked two hits before leaving the game with a leg injury, while Nate Wierzgac had a hit and a run scored. Seth Gower and Cameron Brewster had the other Lee hits. Brewster also tallied a run.
Chris Large, Bryan Woodlief and Cody Armstrong had Hiwassee’s only hits, all singles. Tyler Butler (2-4) pitched 4 1/3 innings and was charged with the pitching defeat. He allowed 10 hits, seven earned runs, walked four and struck out two. Luke Thompson and Jordan Rouse followed Butler to the mound.