NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Josh Lee returned to where his college baseball career began Tuesday night and delivered a homecoming performance he would not soon forget.
The redshirt senior came through in the clutch to drive in three runs for the Lipscomb baseball team in a thrilling 3-1 victory over No. 1 Vanderbilt at Hawkins Field. The win halted a six-game win streak for the ‘Dores.
Lee was recruited to and played in three games at Vandy as a freshman before transferring to Central Arizona Community College in 2013 and ultimately ending up at Lipscomb a year later.
On Tuesday, he jabbed his former team with RBIs in the first and sixth innings before landing the knockout blow in the eighth to secure the win for the Bisons.
“I am just blessed to have the opportunity to come back here and play and it’s hard to say this win doesn’t mean a lot to me,” Josh Lee said. “It is definitely a special win for me and for our program. It's hard not to see them as what they are, the No. 1 team in the country. But we came across the street and just played our game.
“We knew it was going to be a tough challenge, but all we were worrying about entering the game was us. Whenever we aren’t worrying about anyone else and focusing on what we are doing, we are pretty successful.”
Shining bright on the big stage alongside Lee was freshman Brady Puckett. The 6-foot-8 hurler dazzled the entire night, keeping the heavy-hitting Vanderbilt (27-8) lineup off-balance without allowing a base runner past second until the eighth frame.
“I had some jitters early on, but as the game went along I could definitely feel myself getting more relaxed and into the flow of the game,” Puckett said. “My confidence is continuing to grow with each and every start.”
Puckett helped limit the 'Dores to thier lowest run total in 29 games, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out a career-high six batters and improving to 2-1 on the season. His 7.1 innings tossed is the longest outing for a starting pitcher this season against the vaunted Commodore offense.
“Brady Puckett man, the hometown kid was just shoving,” Josh Lee said. “I had all the faith in the world in him and he looked great all night. Hats off to him, that’s the best he has looked all year.”
Michael Gigliotti got the game rolling when he reached base after Vandy’s left-handed starter John Kilichowski beamed the freshman on the night’s first pitch. A Vanderbilt throwing error allowed Grant Massey to reach safely before Jonathan Allison’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Lee followed with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Gigliotti to give the Bisons a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, Lee corked the first pitch he saw just short of the wall into the left-center field gap and just over the reach of a diving Bryan Reynolds for his first-career triple. His three-bagger brought home Allison, who reached on a two-out single to center.
“Josh had a great night,” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “He enjoyed his time here at Vanderbilt, but it just didn’t work out for him and we are glad he is now at Lipscomb. I am sure he had some fun coming back and facing his former team, a little motivation.”
With the game entering its final stages and one of the most potent offenses in the country on the other side of the field, a two-run lead never felt safe for Lipscomb, even with Puckett dealing.
But once again when it came his time in the eighth, Lee delivered, this time pushing a single through the left side of the infield. Gigliotti scored on the hit after drawing a four-pitch leadoff walk and moving over on his eighth swiped bag of the season.
Already over 100 pitches on the night, Puckett had enough in him to go back out in the eighth and try to finish things off.
He worked catcher Jason Delay to a full count before surrendering a leadoff double down the left-field line. Puckett came right back and recorded a huge first out as Ro Coleman hit a sharp liner to Massey at short. With the middle of the lineup due up for VU, Forehand decided Puckett's night was over.
The Commodores would score a run on Zander Wiel’s single to left field in the bottom of the eighth, but a trio of relief pitchers for Lipscomb came in to shut the door.
Senior Nick Andros notched the save working the final four outs of the game including ending a scoring threat in the eighth by the Commodores. The southpaw then sent Vandy down in order in the ninth to seal the win and earn his first save of the season.
“This was one of those games that was well played on both ends,” Forehand said. “Brady was outstanding on the mound.
“He is just a freshman and he is starting to learn more and more with each start. We feel like he can do this every time he steps on the mound. It was a lot of fun for us to watch tonight.”
- Lipscomb knocked off its second No. 1 team in the program's NCAA era. The previous win was also over Vanderbilt, a 5-3 decision at Dugan Field.
- The Bisons won for just the second time in program history at Hawkins Field (2-10).
- Josh Lee tied his season-high with three ribbies and now has three multiple hits in his last five games.
- His triple in the sixth was the first of Lee’s career.
- Puckett tossed a career-high 107 pitches in the outing.
- Grant Massey ended his 17-game hitting streak with a 0-for-3 night, but he did extend his on-base streak to 20 after reaching in the first on an error.
- Besides Lee, Allison recorded the only other hit of the night for Lipscomb. He finished 1-for-3.
- Gigliotti went 0-for-2 at the plate, but scored two runs on the night after reaching base on a hit by pitch and a walk.
- John Pryor and Will Blalock saw limited relief action in the eighth.
- Pryor faced one batter and got a fly out to center.
- Blalock gave up back-to-back singles to Dansby Swanson and Zander Wiel.
Lipscomb returns home for the first time in almost two weeks on Friday when the Bisons play host North Florida in a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference series at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium. The series opener is scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch.
“Coming into the year we knew North Florida was going to be one of the best teams in the conference,” Forehand said. “They are a hot-hitting bunch that is well coached.
Bisons sink top-ranked 'Dores by Lipscomb Bisons on Exposure