The name of the game in baseball is outstanding pitching combined with consistent hitting, and that's exactly what No. 1-ranked Lee did in sweeping Talladega on Saturday afternoon at Olympic Field.
The Flames made it a near-perfect afternoon by honoring the military and then posting the 7-1 and 4-1 victories. Lee claimed Friday’s opener by a 15-1 margin.
It was Military Appreciation Day at Olympic Field, and local fans joined several veterans in a day that will long be remembered and brought tears to the eyes of several hundred in attendance.
The non-conference series sweep saw the Flames score 26 runs and allow Talladega only three and set up a meeting with rival Tennessee Wesleyan on Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. at Olympic Field.
The two highly-ranked clubs have split a pair of 4-3 games in Athens this season with the 10th-ranked and defending national champion Bulldogs winning in 10 innings a dozen days ago.
"It's a big game for both teams," Flames head coach Mark Brew pointed out. "The bids for the opening round of the national tournament will go out on April 15. We need to stay high in the rankings, and I'm sure the NAIA will be taking a hard look at the winner of our Tuesday game."
The Flames have hosted three straight opening rounds and have used the home field advantage as a huge positive in advancing to the NAIA World Series.
FLAMES 7, TALLADEGA 1
Talladega scored its only run of the game in the first inning when Chase Benfield singled, stole second and crossed the plate on a single by Kameron Mizzell.
The Flames gave pitcher Jose Samayoa all the support he needed in the top of the second. Derrick Pitts doubled and scored on a single by Karsten Strieby. Strieby finished the contest with a perfect three hits in three trips to the plate.
Corey Davis walked and Brandon Rader put down a sacrifice bunt and Trevor Burgess followed with the second free pass of the inning. Mark Silva stroked a double that pushed across two runs and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Brady Renner.
Lee added a single run in the fifth when Danny Canela and Strieby singled. Davis lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Canela. Silva got things started in a two-run sixth inning with a one-base hit. He stole second and crossed this dish on a hit by Renner. The final run of the game came when Renner tallied on an infield out by Canela.
Silva and Strieby were the game's top hitters. The twosome combined with Pitts and Silver in collecting doubles.
Samayoa (8-1) hurled six innings of four-hit ball. He allowed one earned run, struck out six and did not walk a batter. Andy Hillis pitched the seventh. He surrendered two hits and struck out one. Ryan Pettus was the losing Talladega pitcher.
FLAMES 4, TALLADEGA 1
Left-hander Clint Terry (6-1) worked a complete seven-inning game as the Flames improved to 33-8 on the year. Terry allowed five hits and one earned run. He struck out seven and issued no free passes.
The Flames tallied a single run in the first inning when Canela reached on a walk. Pinch-runner Trevor Burgess stole second and went to third on a wild throw. Pitts drove Burgess across the plate with a one-base knock.
Lee's final three runs came in the third. Silver and Canela singled, and Pitts walked to load the bases. Strieby picked up an RBI with a sacrifice fly. Davis reached on an error that allowed Burgess to score. The Flames used a double-steal for the game's final tally. Davis stole second, and, on the throw, Pitts raced across home plate.
Talladega managed its only run in the seventh. Nerio Barreto singled and scored on a double down the left-field line Georgie Santiago, who finished the game with two of the Tornadoes’ five hits.
Jeff Pool (5-1) was the losing Talladega hurler. He pitched six innings and allowed just two earned runs. The right-hander fanned six and walked three.
"It was just a good all-around day for our program," said Coach Brew. "It was the best weather we have had all year, the crowd was great, our team played well and, most of all, we were able to honor those veterans and active members of our military."
Brew liked all phases of his team's performance.
"We expect this out of our pitching staff, and now our hitting is coming around,” Brew said. “Plus, our defense has been outstanding in recent games."
FLAMES 15, TALLADEGA 1
Sparked by the hitting of Pitts and Davis, Lee exploded for nine runs over the fifth and sixth innings and coasted to a 15-1 win over Talladega Friday afternoon.
While Pitt and Davis were directing the hitting punch, Myles Smith (8-2) fanned nine Tornadoes hitters over six innings to pick up the pitching win. CJ Lusted, Jeremy Bales and Ryan Zimmer hurled one inning apiece of shutout ball. All totaled, the four pitched a recorded 14 strikeouts and walked two. They did not allow an earned run.
Talladega pitcher Ryne Drummonds hurt his own case by walking three straight hitters with two outs in the fifth inning. Davis made the right-hander pay when he drilled a triple deep to left-center field and pushed three runs across the plate.
In the sixth Lee sent 11 batters to the dish, banged out seven hits and scored six runs in claiming a 12-1 lead. Pitts, Josh Silver and Brandon doubled in the frame. Cameron Brewster collected two singles and scored in the explosion while Brady Renner and Mark Silva had hits.
Pitts ripped a three-run homer in the seventh. He finished the day with a home run, triple and double, scored four times and knocked in five.
“Derrick just had a huge evening,” said Coach Mark Brew.
Davis, who broke the contest wide open with his triple in the fifth, had a single, double and a three-base hit. Rader added a double and single. Mark Silva had a pair of one-base knocks. He posted two RBI and tallied once. He drew praise from Brew for his base running in the fourth inning that led to one of Lee’s two runs in the frame.
Renner picked up two RBI and scored twice. Karsten Strieby joined the action with two runs batted in and two runs scored.
“We did a lot of good things at the plate and in the field today,” said Brew as his No.1-ranked Flames improved to 31-8 on the year. “We got an opportunity to use a lot of players, and it was good to get Lusted, Bales and Zimmer some work.”