FORT MYERS, Fla. - Freshman Brady Puckett put the Lipscomb baseball team on his back Friday and pitched the Bisons to a 2-1 win over top-seeded North Florida in the Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship. His complete-game effort sends the Bisons to the championship finals for the second-straight season.
“I just can’t give Brady enough credit,” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “It was such a solid game against arguably one of the best offensive teams in the country.
“A complete game against them is a lot more impressive than what it looks like on the stat sheet.”
The Bisons’ (38-18) offense got off to a good start in the top of the first when senior shortstop Grant Massey laced a two-out double into the gap in right center field. Senior left fielder Jonathan Allison then brought Massey around on a single up the middle for his 54th RBI of the season to give Lipscomb an early 1-0 lead.
Later in the top of the fourth Lipscomb extended its advantage to 2-0 after senior designated hitter Tyson Ashcraft led off with a single to center field. A sacrifice bunt from junior catcher Chucky Vazquez moved Ashcraft to second before a single from senior second baseman Mike Korte put runners on the corners.
Following a meeting with Forehand, sophomore third baseman Hunter Hanks successfully laid down a suicide squeeze to plate Ashcraft and give Lipscomb a 2-0 lead.
It was just a matter of time before the potent UNF (44-14) offense struck. Leading off the bottom of the fourth, the A-Sun Player of the Year Donnie Dewees ripped a triple to the wall in right just out of the reach of a diving Josh Lee.
Third baseman Trent Higginbothem followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center field, plating Dewees for his 63rd RBI of the season.
The biggest moment of the game came in the bottom of the seventh when the Ospreys put their first two men on base following back-to-back singles. On the next at-bat, Corbin Olmstead tried to advance the runners with a bunt, but Puckett got to the ball and threw to third base to get the lead runner. Puckett then induced a ground ball to Hanks at third for a 5-4-3 double play and escape the trouble.
“A lot of times when you are pitching the way he was, the ball seems to find a glove,” Forehand said. “He made a great play going to third for the first out and then a great pitch to get the double play.”
Puckett retired the next six batters over the final two frames to pick up his seventh road win of the season (7-2). He needed just 99 pitched to toss the second complete game of the year for the Bisons, both coming on the arm of the 6-foot-8 Puckett.
“Well, I just came out and decided I needed to throw strikes,” Puckett said. “I had good defense behind me and they made plays all day. I felt really loose coming into the game and thought I might have a good day.”
He allowed just the one run on five hits while punching out two and walking one.
Lipscomb will now play at 2 p.m. central on Saturday. The opponent is yet to be determined as No. 1 North Florida will face No. 5 Florida Gulf Coast in a 10 a.m. elimination game for the right to face the Bisons.
“We are going to take five and enjoy this one for a few minutes and grab some rest,” Forehand said. “There are still three really good teams left in this tournament that we could face. We just have to be ready for it and hopefully get back over here tomorrow and finish this thing up.”
Around the Horn:
- Lipscomb has won its sixth straight game, tying its longest win streak of the season. The victory also marks the 14th straight win away from Nashville
- Gigliotti recorded his 22nd bunt single of the season to reach base for the 28th consecutive game.
- Lipscomb out hit UNF 8-5, but stranded 10 runners on base.
- Massey, Ashcraft and Korte led the Bisons with two hits apiece.
- Allison was 1-for-1 on the day, but reached base three more times via walk.