Lions win series, fail to cap weekend sweep

North Alabama won the series over Shorter behind two wins in Saturday’s doubleheader. Junior infielder Kyle Hubbuch catches a pop up in Sunday’s Game 3 loss against Shorter.

by Student Writer Nick Griffin

Although the North Alabama baseball team could not complete the series sweep Sunday, the Lions won a key Gulf South Conference series over Shorter with two wins Saturday.

The Lions used a solid day at the play to take the first two games 9-1 and 12-7, but UNA dropped Game 3 Sunday 9-5 after taking a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth only to surrender six runs in the ninth.

Junior Brandt Holland singled to right with the bases loaded in the eighth, and an error in right field allowed every base runner to score for a de facto inside the park homerun.

In the sixth inning, the Lions stranded three runners on base after two strikeouts to close the inning.

Head coach Mike Keehn said he was happy with the way his team played Saturday, but he seeks improvement in closing out games.

 “You can’t continue to do some of the defensive stuff that we continue to do and survive,” Keehn said. “I thought we had some poor approaches at the plate when we had an opportunity with the bases loaded the first time and didn’t get it done. It comes down to a lot of the mistakes we made that don’t show up as much on paper.”

UNA remains near the top of the GSC standings with a 5-1 record in conference play while sporting a 9-5 overall record.

The Lions won Game 1 behind a one-hit, one-run complete game from junior pitcher Tyler Joiner. Joiner struck out 11 in the win.

Sophomore infielder Davis Elliot led the hitting in the first game with a triple and a bases-clearing double in the win. Junior left fielder Ben Cooley added two RBI singles in the game one win.

The Lions grinded out a game two win over Shorter with the Hawks committing six errors to give UNA the advantage.

Junior infielder Kyle Hubbuch went 2 for 2 with double, a walk, a hit by pitch and an RBI. Shorter committed six errors in the loss, and UNA committed three errors in the game two win.

One player who did not struggle on defense was Cooley. Cooley, who made a diving catch at the warning track in left field to save the Lions a run early in the game.

“If I had to rate it myself, I’d say I’d rate that catch as an eight just because I didn’t have to leave my feet as much.” Cooley said. “I had a good jump on it. It had some side spin on it, so I felt like I was going to have to leave my feet, but I caught up and got under it a little bit.”

Keehn said he thought Cooley’s catch was an important play in the game.

 “I really thought that was going to be kind of a momentum swing because that was by far the toughest catch,” Keehn said. “He covered some serious ground, and it was huge at the time because it was one that kept the score within two.”

The series win gives the Lions two consecutive conference series wins to start the season and brings their record to 9-5 overall as they get set to play on the road at Alabama A&M Feb. 28.

UNA returns to GSC action next weekend as it travels to Pensacola, Florida, to take on preseason favorite West Florida March 4-5.