FORT MYERS, Fla. – Propelled by a 3-run, sixth-inning, the Lipscomb baseball team downed third-seeded Stetson 9-4 in the second round of the 2015 Atlantic Sun Conference Baseball Championship at Swanson Stadium Thursday night to win its nation-leading 13th straight game away from Nashville.
“I think it’s a will to win, a will to fight from our guys,” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “The guys put into action what they work on every day in practice. All of that sounds cliché, but that is what this team is about. We want to do it for the guy beside us.
“This was a great win from our guys. There were a lot of back and forth’s but we knew what is at stake. We needed this win.”
With the game knotted at 5-5 and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, senior Tyson Ashcraft stood at the dish with the bases loaded and a 0-2 count. The designated hitter ripped a clutch two-RBI double into right centerfield before an errant throw got behind the catcher to allow the third runner to score and put Lipscomb on top for good.
“What a great hit by Ty,” Forehand said. “He has been a leader for our team throughout his entire career coming up big in the biggest moments and once again he did it again tonight. We expected nothing less from him and I can’t be more proud than I am right now.”
Freshman center fielder Michael Gigliotti got the Bisons (37-18) rolling when he started the game off with a bang in the bottom of the first by turning on a 2-2 pitch and blasting it into the net beyond the wall in right field. He has now reached base in 28 straight games.
Following back-to-back strikeouts by Lipscomb, senior left fielder Jonathan Allison ripped his 15th double of the season down the right field line. Redshirt senior right fielder Josh Lee knocked Allison on a single through the left side of the infield to give the Bisons an early 2-0 advantage.
Lipscomb freshman hurler Jeffrey Passantino looked the part of a seasoned veteran through the first two frames in his postseason debut, retiring the first six batters he faced, before running into trouble in the third. He brushed the jersey of Stetson (29-29) second baseman Jack Machonis to put the leadoff man aboard. He would score two batters later on a groundout before designated hitter Patrick Mazeika’s single scored Vance Vizcaino to draw even with the Bisons.
In the bottom of the stanza Allison struck with his second two-bagger of the night, scoring senior shortstop Grant Massey after he reached on a free pass. Allison would then swipe third for his 13th stolen base of the season before coming home on an infield single from redshirt freshman Allan Hooker.
The Hatters took its first lead of the night in the top of the fifth after Passantino quickly recorded the first two outs. Mazeika worked Passantino for 12 pitches before finally drawing a two-out walk to keep the inning alive. Will Mackenzie followed with a run-producing single and Josh Powers hit a 2-RBI double to left field to give Stetson a 5-4 lead.
Redshirt senior Josh Lee drew a five-pitch walk to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Following a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, he crossed the dish on a fielder’s choice from junior Chucky Vazquez when Machonis' throw got away while attempting the out at the plate.
Lipscomb’s final tally of the night came in the seventh when Gigliotti singled to right field to plate senior second baseman Mike Korte, who doubled down the right field line to lead off the frame.
The Bisons had all 10 players who stepped to the plate record a hit. Gigliotti, Adam Lee, Josh Lee and Allison all totaled multiple hits, while Gigliotti and Ashcraft each had two RBI.
Passantino recorded his fifth win of the season (5-1) after working six complete frames. He allowed five runs on seven hits with two strike outs and one walk.
Senior southpaw Nick Andros entered in the seventh in relief and was lights outs, striking out five batters and giving up just two runs to record a three-inning save, his fifth of the year. Andros recorded four-straight punch outs over his first two innings pitched.
The Bisons will now turn around for an early 10 a.m. CT first pitch with top-seeded North Florida. The winner of that game will advance to the championship to be played on Saturday. The loser will have to turn around and play an elimination game at 6 p.m. Friday night.
“It is tournament time so you can’t complain about when you play, you just have to be glad you are still playing,” Forehand said. “All we can do is show up and play our best. We will see what happens tomorrow.”