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April 29, 2016123456789RHE
Win: PUCKETT (7-2) 7.0611210
Loss: LUBRESKI (4-6) 5.0117742
BRADY (NJIT) 411010
LEE (LIP) 413120
HOOKER (LIP) 433010
WATSON (LIP) 423210
HANKS (LIP) 523402
April 29, 201612345678910RHE
Win: HWANG (1-1) 1.031110
Loss: SONDERGARD (0-1) 0.232220
DODSON (LIP) 515400
Solomon walks off the Bisons in extras to sweep DH
Friday, April 29, 2016
By Russell Vannozzi
Solomon walks off the Bisons in extras to sweep DH

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After the Li­pscomb baseball team opened up the weekend with an impressive 11-2 win over Atlantic Sun newcomer NJIT, it appeared the Highlanders would take Game 2. However, a dramatic rally tied the game at 10 in the ninth, and a walk-off single from Lee Solomon gave the Bisons a sweep of doubleheader beneath the threatening skies at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium Friday. 

With the wins Lipscomb improves to 22-21 on the season while NJIT falls to 16-25.

“What a great day for our team,” said Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand. “These were two big wins for us as we inch closer to the end of the season. We had great pitching and great offense in the opener, then we come back in the second game and fall behind early, but we are able to battle back and win.

“You just have to find a way to get on base and that’s exactly what our guys did. I could not be more proud of their effort. These were two good wins for our ball team.”


Game 1: Lipscomb 11 - NJIT 2

The Lipscomb bats were hot as the Bisons pounded out 16 hits en route to an 11-2 victory over NJIT in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

After a shakeup in the weekend rotation, Brady Puckett made the first Friday start of his career and the sophomore did not disappoint, improving to 7-2 with the win. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee native tossed seven innings and struck out 10 Highlander batters, while scattering six hits and allowing just one run.

Lipscomb scored runs in four of the first five innings. Two home runs and a career-high four RBI from shortstop Hunter Hanks were the highlights of an impressive offensive showing by the Bisons.

After a scoreless first inning, Lipscomb erupted for three runs in the bottom of the second. Tevin Symonette singled and advanced to third on a double by Allan Hooker. Symonette scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch by NJIT starter Sean Lubreski. Von Watson then drove in Hooker with an RBI single. Later in the frame, senior Adam Lee singled in Chucky Vazquez to extend the Lipscomb lead to 3-0.

Watson’s second RBI single of the afternoon gave Lipscomb a 4-0 advantage after three innings. In the fourth, Symonette lined a single to right field to drive in two more runs. Hanks looped an RBI single to center field an inning later to give the Bisons a 7-0 lead.

NJIT scored their first run of the game when Evan Pietronico singled through the right side, plating Edgar Badaraco in the process. That cut Lipscomb’s lead to 7-1.

Hanks quickly answered with his first home run of the day, a deep solo shot over the left field fence that put the Bisons up 8-1.

The Highlanders plated one more run in the top of the eighth when Bardaraco’s sacrifice fly to right field scored Tom Brady.

Lipscomb tacked on three runs in the eighth to seal the win. Vazquez grounded out to first base, allowing Hooker to cross the plate. Hanks’ second bomb of the day scored Watson and rounded out the scoring.

Dallas Gibson tossed the final two innings and did not allow a run.


Game 2: Lipscomb 12 - NJIT 11

Lipscomb fell behind NJIT early in Game 2, but clawed their way back by scoring four runs in the ninth to knot the score at 10. Then Solomon delivered a single to left field to plate two runs and give the Bisons a 12-11 victory. 

“This was a grind-it-out victory for us with a lot of great at-bats,” Solomon said. “Jackson (Furstace) comes in off the bench and gets it started for us with a single. And when it came my turn, I was just trying to be aggressive at that point in the game. I wish I could say I had a great game, but the win is most important.

“God is good. Baseball is a redeeming game and I just kind of willed that ball through the six-hole. We needed this victory at this point in the season.”

Starting pitcher Jeffrey Passantino, known as one of the Atlantic Sun’s best, was a bit off from his usual form. The sophomore righthander went four innings and change, giving up eight hits and five earned runs. The Fort Myers, Florida native also struck out four batters and issued just one walk. Passantino’s outing on Friday was his shortest of the season, and the five earned runs were the most he has allowed this year.

NJIT jumped ahead of the Bisons in the first with a 3-0 lead before Lipscomb even came to bat. Brady reached on an error, which allowed Jesse Uttendorfer to score. Johnny Malatesta tripled to right field to drive in two more runs.

Lipscomb then answered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the first. Zeke Dodson singled down the right field line to score Solomon. One batter later, Symonette doubled home Lee and Dodson to tie the game at three.

The Highlanders regained their lead in the top of the third when Bryan Haberstroh singled through the right side to plate two runs and give NJIT a 5-3 advantage. The Bisons would answer with a Jeffrey Crisan RBI double in the bottom of the fourth to cut NJIT’s two-run lead in half.

NJIT continued its offensive eruption with three runs in the top of the fifth. Malatesta singled in two runs before Justin Etts brought another run home on a sacrifice fly three batters later. In the sixth, Brady picked up an RBI on a groundout to Solomon. That extended the Highlanders lead to 9-4.

The Bisons gained two runs back in the bottom of the sixth. Zeke Dodson beat out a single on a nice hustle play with the bases loaded, driving in Hanks. After Dodson and the NJIT first baseman collided, Solomon alertly dashed home to cut NJIT’s lead to 9-6. The Highlanders scored a run in the seventh that extended their lead to 10-6.

Lipscomb was far from done. The Bisons pulled off an impressive rally in the ninth to knot the score at 10. Lee singled up the middle to plate Knell and Sorrells, cutting the NJIT lead to 10-8. With two outs, Dodson capped a career 5-for-5 night at the plate by delivering another 2-RBI single to score Lee and Solomon and send the game to extra innings.

“It seems like Zeke’s number is called every time a big hit is needed late in a game these last few weeks, and he continues to come through with big hits,” Forehand said. “I am not sure how to explain it; I guess it’s just in his blood. He is a freshman, but is growing up right in front of us. I am so happy at the success he is having at the plate.”

NJIT took an 11-10 lead in the top of the 10th when Haberstroh singled in Brady.

The Bisons found more magic in the bottom of the 10th. Furstace came off the bench as a pinch-hitter to lead the frame off with a single before advancing to second on a bunt single from Tyler Bethune. Vazquez moved both runners into scoring position with a successful sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Solomon delivered his heroic base knock to plate Furstace and Bethune and give Lipscomb the 12-11 victory.

Jaesung Hwang pitched the 10th and gave up a run, but earned his first win of the season. Alex Dorso pitched 2.2 solid innings of relief after Kyle Weller went 2.1 innings and gave up one earned run.


Around the Horn:

  • Friday’s games were the first-ever meetings between the two schools, with NJIT having just joined the Atlantic Sun Conference.
  • Lee is now Lipscomb’s all-time leader in career walks, as the first baseman has drawn 81 free passes in his three years in as a Bison.
  • Lipscomb plated runs in four of the first five innings of Game 1 and did not look back. By plating double-digit runs in both games, the Bisons have now scored 10 runs or more on 12 occasions this season, including in three of the last four.
  • Hanks now has four home runs this season after hitting two bombs in Game 1. The Jacksonville, Florida native has seven career home runs. 
  • Puckett’s 10 strikeouts in Game 1 brought his season total to 75, which leads the Atlantic Sun. He now has double-digit strikeouts in each of his last two tilts after tying a career high with 11 last weekend at Kennesaw State.
  • Despite scoring 23 runs over the two games, the Bisons left 27 runners on base on Friday.
  • Dodson collected a career high five hits in game two. The freshman has been on a hot streak lately, picking up hits in 13 of his last 14 games. The Tifton, Georgia native is hitting .404 (23-for-57) with 15 RBI over his last 14 games.  
  • Lipscomb hitters went 38-for-87 (.437) on the day.
  • The Bisons’ 22 hits in Game 2 was the third most in a game in the program's NCAA era. It was the most since collecting 22 against Austin Peay on April 19, 2011.

Up Next:

The Bisons and Highlanders are slated to face-off in Game 3 of the series on Saturday. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Dugan Field. Freshman Kyle Kemp (2-1, 4.70 ERA) will make his first career start on the mound for Lipscomb, while junior Brett Haberstroh (1-3, 4.32 ERA) will toe the rubber for NJIT. 

“We are just trying to stay focused with the exam period going on,” said Solomon. “Coach (Forehand) is always preaching the importance of our academics, so we will go back tonight and get some rest, get up tomorrow to take our tests, and when we get back to the field tomorrow it will be all business.”