MASON, Ohio — It was a cold, windy morning when the Lee baseball team began the second round of pool play Thursday at the NCCAA World Series, but it did not take long for the Flames to heat up their bats, and then get a pitching gem from lefty Ryan Zimmer.
The 10-0 victory ended with the mercy rule in the eighth inning when senior shortstop Josh Silver blasted a three-run homer over the left-field wall at Legacy Field. All totaled Lee banged out 18 hits against two Lancaster College hurlers.
However, it was Zimmer who stole the show on this morning. Over the first six innings he faced the minimum of 18 Charger batters. Nate Burns reached on an error in third inning, but was quickly picked off first by a nifty Zimmer move.
The junior lefty reached the seventh with a no-hitter in the works. Justin Taylor led off the inning with a double, the only hit Zimmer allowed over the seven innings. He followed the two-bagger by Taylor with a walk to Ryan Hartline, before ending the scoring threat. Zimmer fanned four and issued one free pass. CJ Lusted came on in the eighth and allowed a double to Nate Long before recording three straight outs.
“What a job Ryan did for us when we needed it to keep our hopes alive for advancing out of pool play,” praised Lee coach Mark Brew. “I think the cool, windy morning helped wake our guys up. We played solid ball all around today, and took care of business.”
Brew noted the three hits in the first inning (a single by Silver and doubles by Derrick Pitts and Zac Hawkins) plated two runs and helped fuel the confidence of Zimmer and his entire team. “We were an entirely different team than we were yesterday [Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to Toccoa Falls)],” the coach added.
After two runs in the first, the Flames added a single tally in the third when Siosi Poti singled, reached second on an error and then raced all the way home on a sacrifice bunt by Silver. “Siosi was flying around third and didn’t stop coming,” pointed out Brew.
Four big runs in the fifth put the contest out of reach. Pitts and Hawkins started the rally with one-base hits and Blake Ray collected a pair of RBIs with a double. Brewster followed with a hit and Nate Wierzgac picked up an RBI with a sacrifice bunt and Seth Gower drove in the final run of the frame with a two-base knock.
“It was good to see our top four hitters produce (10 of his team’s 18 hits),” said Brew after his Flames improved to 34-18 overall. Poti had two hits and scored twice. Silver stroked a home run and single, scored two runs and added four RBIs. Pitts and Hawkins each doubled. Pitts finished the day with three hits and two runs scored, while Hawkins had two hits, three RBIs and a run scored. Wierzgac also doubled in the fourth inning.
Caleb Mayer was the starting and losing Lancaster pitcher. He gave up 10 hits before being replaced by Gabe Yoder in the sixth inning.
The Flames will have a challenging Friday. They will return to Prasco Park and face Trevecca in a 2 p.m. affair. Their final pool play game is slated for 5 p.m. against Cedarville (Ohio). “We are facing two quality NCAA D-2 programs,” stressed Brew. “Trevecca won their conference title (GMAC) and Cedarville placed second, but we still have two of our best arms available, and I like our chances.”