The two top seeds advanced in the opening round of the NAIA national tournament at Olympic Field on Thursday afternoon.
Nationally ranked at No. 18, Madonna (Mich.) defeated No. 24 LSU-Shreveport, 8-0 and Lee downed Avila (Mo.) 12-3.
Friday’s play begins at noon and pits Grand View (Iowa) a 7-0 loser to Avila, against LSU-Shreveport. The Flames and Madonna will square off at 3:30, while the winner of the Grand View, LSUS game will be pitted against Avila in the nightcap.
The Flames broke open a tight contest by putting seven runs on the board in the fifth inning and claimed an 8-1 advantage. The Eagles fought back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame but Lee salted the victory away with a single run in the seventh and three more runs in the eighth.
The Flames sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth. Mark Silva, who had a triple and a double in the big inning, got things started with his three-base knock. Brady Renner collected an RBI and Josh Silver singled and scored on a two-base hit by Derrick Pitts. Danny Canela drilled a two-run homer over the right-field wall and Lee’s big inning continued.
A key error allowed the inning to push forward against losing hurler Aaron Baker (7-4). Brandon Rader reached on a walk. Cameron Brewster jumped into the act with a two-RBI double and Silva knocked in a run with a two-base hit. Silva also scored two runs.
Pitts had a double, two singles and scored twice to pace Lee’s 17-hit attack. Canela finished with two hits and three RBIs. Karsten Strieby, Corey Davis, and Rader had two hits apiece. Davis also crossed the plate three times.
“We’ve been a big-inning team all season and that happened in the fifth tonight to break open a close game against a scrapping Avila team,” said coach Mark Brew. “We hit the ball hard in the earlier innings but were unable to muster much offense.”
Myles Smith started for the Flames and picked up his 11th win of the year against three defeats. Smith worked six innings and allowed four hits and one earned run. He walked four and struck out four.
“Myles didn’t have his best game,” noted Brew. “He had trouble getting his off-speed pitches across the plate and the Avila hitters were battling to stay alive against his fastball. Overall, he got the job done and that’s what counts.”
The Flames went to the bullpen for three relief hurlers and all three drew praise from the Lee coach. CJ Lusted hurled one inning and struck out three batters. David Eskew came on for an inning and fanned three more while walking two. Jeremy Bales sealed the deal with three quick outs in the bottom of the ninth.
“Our offense gave us a chance to get our relievers some work and they produced,” said Brew. “They gave us exactly what is needed from our bullpen.”
Avila got two hits from Brian Sagun. He also collected an RBI and scored once. Cameron Luitwieler added a double and drove home a run. Matt Ricketts had the only other hit for the Eagles and he also produced an RBI.