The 8-6 victory gives the Flames a 2-1 edge in the three-game series between the NAIA powers. However, like the first two games the battle went down to the final hitter before victory was finally declared.
“It’s the kind of game you come to expect between Lee and TWC,” said coach Mark Brew, who watched his Flames improve to 34-8 on the year. “It always comes down to the last at bat. It was a great playoff-type atmosphere and one we needed to help prepare us for postseason.”
Wesleyan got out of the gates early and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on a homer by Trey Griffin. The Flames countered right back in the bottom of the inning when Danny Canela and Derrick Pitts walked with two outs and then scored after an infield hit by Karsten Strieby and an error by the Bulldogs.
Wesleyan grabbed the lead again in the second inning. Logan Dalton and Brad Carpenter singled and Dalton scored on Travis Burnside’s single. The Flames quickly retaliated when Jordan Stewart was hit by a pitch. Robbie Duran and Brady Renner singled to load the bases and both scored on Mark Silva’s one-base knock.
The 4-3 lead would stand until the bottom of the sixth inning when Lee tallied two more runs to go up 6-3. Silva posted his second hit of the night and Canela walked for the third time. Pitts made the Bulldogs pay by collecting an RBI single and pinch runner Trevor Burgess scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Strieby.
No lead is ever safe when these teams meet, and Wesleyan came right back to tie the game at six with three runs in the top of the seventh. Eight Bulldogs batted and Griffin posted his third hit of the evening and joined Jake Stone and Wes Minton with runs that tied the contest. The Flames were guilty of a pair of key errors in the frame and Josh McCray stroked a key double down the left-field line.
Coach Brew had seen enough. He quickly called on his ace reliever Andy Hillis to put out the fire. Hillis ended the seventh inning with a strikeout and proceeded to strike out seven more batters over the next two innings. Eight Ks in 2 1/3 innings is a rarity in any level of baseball. In the past two wins over TWC, Hillis has fanned a grand total of 15 batters.
The Flames wrapped up the win in the bottom of the seventh. Corey Davis and Duran walked and both scored on Renner’s single. “Offensively, we did a great job working counts tonight with 10 walks and two hit batters,” pointed out Brew. “Renner was huge from the leadoff spot and Mark Silva continues to swing it well.”
Brew also praised the relief work of his other hurlers. “Kyle Briner settled us down early on the mound and (Jeremy) Stawychny and (Keegan) Yuhl helped get us to the end. Hillis was outstanding as we extended him beyond what he is normally accustomed to.”
Mike Guinane started and worked 2 2/3 innings for Lee. Briner pitched 2 1/3 innings of two-hit ball. Stawychny followed with 1 1/3 innings and surrendered one earned run, while Yuhl came in for one out and the rest of the evening belonged to Hillis. TWC used four hurlers. Tyler Wilson (2-3) was charged with the defeat and Hillis (3-0) got credit for the win.
“Overall, it was a great night and a big series-clinching win against a really good TWC team,” said Brew. The Flames will return to SSAC action on Friday and will host Southern Wesleyan in the first of a three-game series scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.