Diamond Lions Outlast Tigers, Sweep Doubleheader

Former Charleston Tiger Tyler Davis Pitches

UAFS coach Dale Harpenau had dinner plans with his family for Sunday night. He might have been a little late arriving, but the veteran Diamond Lions coach couldn’t have been happier.

Finally, the breaks went his Diamond Lions’ way against the Ouachita Baptist Tigers.

A day after dropping a doubleheader to the Tigers, the Diamond Lions beat the Tigers 3-2 in a dramatic, 15-inning marathon in the opening game of Sunday’s doubleheader and used a big inning to sweep the twinbill with an 11-5 win in the second game at Crowder Field.

UAFS (15-15) lost the opening games of the four-game series 3-2 and 7-2, respectively, to the Tigers (16-19) on Saturday.

The opening game of Sunday’s doubleheader was the longest game inning-wise in school history during the NCAA Division II-era and the longest game in recent history for the UAFS program, which competed on the junior college level until the 2009-10 season.

It also was the longest game time-wise in recent school history, lasting 3:48.

UAFS trailed 2-0 until designated hitter Blaise Warrick crushed a two-run home run well over the left field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning of what was a scheduled seven-inning game.

Ouachita Baptist looked like it would finally break the tie in the top of the 15th inning. UAFS reliever Dylan Reese, who was the fifth of six pitchers, struck out second baseman Parker Norris to start the inning but worked himself into trouble from there.

Reese walked relief pitcher Keegan Ghidotti, catcher Chris Tavares and left fielder Jace Melby to load the bases and give the Tigers their best chance of taking the lead during extra innings.

Lean on pitching because of extra innings and with it being the Diamond Lions third game in two days, senior right-hander Tyler Davis got the call out of the bullpen to rescue the Diamond Lions.

Davis, mind you, has been maligned by injuries and last pitched during the 2011 season, when heposted team-leading 3.97 ERA and posted a 1-1 record in six appearances with two starts. He walked four and struck out four in 11 1/3 innings.

The long layoff – or the bases-loaded jam – didn’t seem to faze the former Charleston Tigers. Davis got right fielder Seth Childers to tap his first pitch down to third baseman Matt Turner, who threw out Ghidotti at the plate. Catcher Justin Shealy then fired a perfect throw to first baseman Brennan Rogers to force out Childers for the third out and complete the inning-ending, double-play.

One pitch, two outs.

Davis’ quick work in the clutch was rewarded.

Left fielder Tyler Lein greeted Tigers reliever Josh Reeves, who relieved Ghidotti to start the 15th, with a single to deep short. Second baseman Ryan Gros’ sac bunt moved Lein into scoring position. Reeves walked Shealy before striking out designated hitter Blaise Warrick for the second out.

Reeves couldn’t escape unscathed, though.

Rogers ripped a single to deep left field, allowing Lein to score easily from second to end the game and give Davis the win.

UAFS touched three Ouachita Baptist pitchers for 13 hits but left 10 runners on base. Reeves (2-3) suffered the loss.

Rogers was 3 for 7 with one RBI, Warrick was 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBI, Lein and shortstop Ozzie Hurt and center fielder Curtis Clark were each 2 for 6 to lead the Diamond Lions, who were 13 for 52 at the plate.

The Tigers collected only seven hits in the extra-inning affair and left 12 runners on base. First baseman Will Wallace was 2 for 3, shortstop Evan Ruiz was 2 for 4 and Ghidotti was 1 for 6 with one RBI.

After posting its dramatic win, UAFS appeared to suffer an emotional letdown in the second game. The Diamond Lions trailed 5-0 going into the bottom of the second inning, but UAFS rallied by scoring 11 unanswered runs.

The Diamond Lions broke the game open with a seven-run fourth inning.

UAFS had 13 hits off four Ouachita Baptist pitchers. Starter Craig Daniell suffered the loss, allowing six runs – five earned – on seven hits, with one walk and three strikeouts over a quick 3 1/3 innings.

Third baseman Ryan Justus was 4 for 4 with a double and one RBI to lead UAFS, which was 13 for 31. Clark was 1 for 2 with a triple and three RBI, Gros was 2 for 4 with a double and two RBI, Warrick was 2 for 4 with two RBI and left fielder Josh Vanderpool was 1 for 3 with a double and one RBI.

The Tigers had nine hits off two of the three Diamond Lions pitchers. Reliever Kellen Smith (1-0), who relieved starter Devin Hampton after 1 1/3 innings, earned the win, allowing one unearned run on five hits with one strikeout over 3 2/3 innings of relief.

Tavares was 2 for 3 with one RBI, Wallace was 2 for 3, Melby was 1 for 4 with one RBI and center fielder Landon Moore was 1 for 3 with a double and one RBI.