The Flames trailed talented West Alabama 7-2 after four innings but rallied to record a 9-8 comeback win against the Tigers. The victory gave Lee the three-game series and pushed the Flames to 14-7 overall and 7-5 in the GSC. West Alabama also drops to 14-7 and 6-6 in league competition.
"Wow, what a huge series win against a very, very good West Alabama team. I am extremely proud of our team and how we battled back the entire game and all weekend," remarked Brew minutes after the victory.
Things looked bleak for the Flames early on. Starter Dustin Lawson was lifted after 2 1/3 innings and Kyle Briner lasted only 1 2/3 innings. Brew went back to the bullpen and called on senior left-hander Derrick Pitts, who over the last season and half had become known as a power hitter and right fielder.
"What a huge performance by Derrick Pitts," praised Brew. "He hasn't thrown over one inning all year and throws five incredible innings for us. We looked at each other in the ninth inning and I knew he had it. I think he thought I was going to pull him and he was just shaking his head no. I told him it's yours, go get it."
Pitts hurled five complete innings, allowed only three hits, one earned run, struck out five and walked one in recording his first career pitching win for Lee.
Down by five runs entering the fifth inning, Lee began its comeback when senior Josh Silver ripped a two-run homer over the left-field wall. "The home run by Silver gave us badly needed momentum," explained Brew. "We had lots of heroes today throughout the lineup and on the mound."
West Alabama added a single run in the sixth and led 8-4 but the Flames came right back to trim the margin to 8-6 in the bottom of the same inning. Siosi Poti and Seth Gower started the inning with singles. Blake Ray delivered a sacrifice fly to score Poti, and the Tigers were guilty of an error before Silver collected his third RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly to right.
With Pitts in complete command and shutting down the Tigers in the final three innings, the Flames went to work to put the three winning runs on the board in the bottom of the seventh. Zac Hawkins drew a walk. Nathan Wierzgac stroked his third hit of the day and Jordan Stewart put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the Lee runners to second and third. Poti was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Gower collected an RBI with a groundout to second.
Ray came up with the hit of the day when he stroked a solid single to score Wierzgac and Poti and put the Flames on top for good. "That was a huge two out, two strike hit by Blake to finally give us the lead," remarked Brew. "Stewart had a big sacrifice bunt prior to Ray's big swing, as well."
Freshman catcher Wierzgac stepped up and played a key role when starting receiver Josh Tate went down in the first inning with a knee injury. "Nathan gave us a huge lift with incredible defense and a big RBI in the first inning," said Brew. "He went on to catch an incredible game, threw out two runners, and had three hits at the plate. He has been practicing hard and that preparation allowed him to be ready. He looked like a junior or senior behind the plate."
The Flames outhit the Tigers 10-8 overall. Wierzgac collected three of those hits while Silver knocked in three runs and scored twice. Poti also tallied a couple of runs and Cameron Brewster added a single and scored.
"Overall, it was a great team win. Hopefully, the momentum and confidence from this series will carry us into next week," concluded Brew.
For the losing Tigers, Mitch Holgate carried a big load with a homer and a single. Tanner Rainey blasted a long home run and drove in three runs. Trey Williamson was the only other Tiger with two hits, while Joel Murphy collected a pair of RBIs. Matt Betts pitched 1 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs and was charged with the defeat.
The Flames will remain busy in nonconference action the remainder of the week. They will play five games beginning with a doubleheader against Perdue University-Calumet at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Tiffin University (Ohio) visits on Friday for a single game beginning at 6 p.m. and the same two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday, with the opening pitch slated for noon.