Lions take 2 of 3 against the West Florida Argonauts

Andrew Almon slides safely back into first base as West Florida’s JR Pryor catches the ball during the March 11 game against West Florida.

UNA baseball faced off against West Florida in a weekend series between two nationally ranked ball clubs.

The Argonauts of West Florida marched into UNA’s backyard as the defending national champions looking to derail the Lions’ strong start this season.

Johnny Hornbuckle took the mound in the opening game of a doubleheader March 10. After giving up a run in the opening frame, UNA’s offense hit its stride and notched four runs behind walks, stolen bases and base hits. In the second inning, a double by Josh Doyle followed by an RBI single from Josh Cyr brought across another run. After two innings, the Lions had a 5-1 lead.

The third inning saw UNA lose the momentum it had just built. Back-to-back errors by shortstop Josh Carpenter and a hit batsmen by Hornbuckle helped the Argonauts storm back. West Florida came out of the third inning with a 6-5 lead. After committing four errors in that inning, it seemed as though it might not be UNA’s afternoon.

In the sixth inning, UNA’s left fielder, Darrmal Moore, decided he wanted the momentum back for the Lions. Moore laid down a drag bunt and proceeded to run through the attempted tag, knocking the ball loose and winding up at second base. However, the bats for UNA had gone mostly cold by this point, and the Lions came up empty.

In the tug of war for momentum the seventh inning saw the Argonauts yank the rope after a lead-off home run. After an infield hit by Carpenter scored one more for UNA, the score was 7-6 in favor of West Florida after seven.

The Argonauts put one more on the board before UNA’s last chance in the ninth. Carpenter drove in one more, but the Lions came up short. The Argonauts took the first game 8-7.

“I think we had a lot of energy coming into a series like this and our guys just worried too much about what West Florida was doing instead of what we should be doing,” said head coach Mike Keehn.

Michael Watkins took the bump for the Lions in the second game.

In the second inning, Drew Parker singled in a run to put UNA up 1-0. In the top of the third, Parker sent an Argonaut to the dugout with a cannon shot to second base to catch the runner stealing. A backhanded grab in the hole by third baseman Andrew Almon followed by a difficult throw ended the inning and what little surge West Florida would make for the remainder of the day.

In the fifth inning, the floodgates opened for the Lions’ offense. UNA put 10 runs on board and its foot on the throats of the Argonauts. Everyone got involved with the offense. Parker started things off with a single followed by another great bunt from Moore. Centerfielder J.P. LaMunyon drove in two. Carpenter singled in two more. Base hits by Almon and Moore tallied two more runs. Doyle sent two more across the plate with a stand-up double. LaMunyon was not finished yet, as he singled in the last run of the inning. The Lions base hit the Argonauts to death.

True freshman Brantley Claunch came in for relief and kept the bats of West Florida cold. UNA took game two with a final score of 12-1.

Chad Boughner got the start for UNA in the crucial game three of the series.

In the second inning, Almon reached base with a single and made his way to third on a double from Parker. Moore drove in one with an infield hit to put UNA up 1-0. That was all Boughner and the defense would need.

“I was a little nervous out there pitching against a team like West Florida, but I just used that nervous energy to pitch well,” Boughner said. “The defense played really well behind me today too.”

A two-out single by Doyle in the seventh inning drove in another run for UNA and chased the West Florida pitcher.

Boughner finished his day in the eighth with eight strikeouts and only giving up three hits. Claunch came in and got the save. UNA finished the weekend series strong and took game three with a final of 2-0.

The Lions are now 18-6 overall and 4-2 in conference play. UNA will host AUM at 3 p.m. March 14 at Mike Lane Field.