Lions win series with late-inning heroics

UNA baseball players celebrate a win against Bellarmine Feb. 11 to open the home season at Mike Lane Field. The Lions continued its winning ways entering April with a walk-off celebration Sunday afternoon with an 8-7 victory over rival Alabama-Huntsville.

by Baseball Beat Writer Nick Griffin

With a key series against an in-state rival on the line, the North Alabama baseball team utilized a four-run ninth inning for an 8-7 walk-off victory over Alabama-Huntsville for a 2-1 series win.

Junior Brandt Holland entered the game as a pinch hitter, as UNA trailed 7-5 and had two runners in scoring position. Holland drove a shot deep over the left field wall to give the Lions a come-from-behind win in game three to take the series at Mike Lane Field.

“I just tried to stay ready the entire game for any situation that could come up,” Holland said. “I wanted to be ready. I want to be able to produce for the guys. I got a good pitch and was able to drive it, but it’s awesome being able to play with these guys.”

The Lions took the opening game 12-2 and dropped the second match-up 4-2, setting up the climactic rubber match.

The Lions held the lead for most of the finale behind a steady pitching performance from senior Devan Traglia. Traglia threw 7 and 1/3 innings, including six straight shutout innings to open the game and eight strikeouts.

UAH rallied late and scored five runs in the top of the eighth inning, putting the Lions behind 7-4 heading into the bottom of the inning.

In the final inning, UNA trimmed the deficit after sophomore Davis Elliot scored on a single by junior Kyle Hubbach. After Hubbuch joined senior Drake Tucker on the basepaths as the potential tying run, Holland came in to pinch hit for freshman Tate Mathis, driving in the tying and winning runs with the homer for the win.

UNA head coach Mike Keehn said he trusted Holland in the crucial situation.

“He’s had a lot of RBI’s and big hits for us, so we thought it made sense to make that move.” Keehn said. “The thing about Brandt is that he always stays very focused, and he works hard. He’s been struggling a bit lately, but I thought in the ninth we needed to go with Holland, and fortunately it worked out.”

Sophomore shortstop Peyton Sockwell was the catalyst for UNA’s offense thorughout the series, as he hit his first two collegiate homeruns in the first and last games of the series. Sockwell finished 5-for-9 with two homeruns and seven RBI’s.

“I got some good pitches, and I was able to put a good swing on them,” Sockwell said. “I’m just trying to square balls up and help the team. If they get out (of the park), that’s great, but I don’t care as long we’re scoring runs.”

The Lions will be back at Mike Lane Field for a non-conference contest aginast Trevecca Nazarene April 4. The first pitch is set for 6 p.m.