Flames beat Mobile 11-6 in SSAC opener
COLUMBUS, Ga. (Lee University) -
The Lee baseball Flames opened Southern States Athletic Conference play with an 11-6 victory over the University of Mobile on Thursday, but it did not come without some frustrating moments for coach Mark Brew and his staff.

The Flames jumped out to a 9-0 lead after 5 1/2 innings and appeared well on their way to a possible seven-inning (run rule) win. However, walks, errors and a brief hitting lapse helped extend the contest and forced Brew to go deep into his bullpen before the night ended.

"I was really disappointed with the way we played in the final 3 1/2 innings," said Brew. "We had a chance to save some pitching but we blew the opportunity. This could hurt our chances of winning the championship and that's what we are down here to do."

Patrick Merkling sailed through the first five innings allowing no runs and scattered five hits. However, the easy ride came to a halt when the Rams sent seven men to the plate in the sixth inning and finally put a run on the board. Merkling (8-1) collected the victory but he struggled in the sixth allowing two walks and hitting another batter.

With Merkling's pitch count rising, Brew went to the bullpen in the seventh inning and called on Mike Fasolo. He struck out the first two batters, but three walks and an error forced Brew to make another call to the bullpen. Kyle Briner got the final out in the seventh but was greeted by two doubles, another error and surrendered a walk before Andy Hillis was summoned to the mound.

Hillis proceeded to get the final out in the eighth but Mobile had climbed back into the game and trailed 9-5. The Flames gave Hillis a little cushion in the top of the ninth when Blake Barber stroked a two-run single. Hillis faced seven batters in the ninth and allowed two runs before inducing a pop-up to end any hopes of a Rams comeback.

The late rally by the Rams overshadowed Lee's 15-hit attack. Brady Renner helped lead the charge with a pair of doubles, a single and scored three runs. Jorge Saez did his part with a double in the first that scored Renner. He also blasted a solo homer in the third and came back with an RBI hit in the sixth. Barber finished the evening with three RBI, two hits and one run scored.

The early-innings uprising was fueled by a long two-run homer by Trevor Burgess in the second. He came right back in the third to collect two more RBI with a ringing double. He was part of five of Lee's 11 runs. Edmanuel Rivera garnered a double, a single and scored once, while third-baseman Roberto Duran posted a pair of singles and scored three times. Every Flame in the starting lineup with the exception of one had at least one hit.

Michael King was the starting and losing hurler for the Rams. He lasted only two innings, giving up five hits and six earned runs. Mobile used three pitchers in the loss.

The Flames will move on to second round action on Friday and will face William Carey (Miss.) in a contest scheduled for a 7 p.m. start. The Crusaders scored the only upset in the opening round, posting a 5-3 win over Auburn-Montgomery. Earlier in the day, Shorter advanced with a victory over Southern Poly and top-seeded Faulkner coasted past Belhaven.

Lady Flames drop SSAC opener to Belhaven, 7-1
COLUMBUS, Ga. (Lee University) -
The Lee University Lady Flames softball team allowed five unearned runs in the first inning and struggled to mount a comeback, falling to Belhaven University (Miss.), 7-1, in the first round of the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament.

The Blazers added another pair of runs in the second, before Lee got on the board in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run by Charlie Wooden. Both sides went quiet for the remaining five innings as Lee dropped the upset loss.

Brittany Balough (24-3) started and worked the complete game for Lee (46-9), allowing just one earned run on 11 hits. The senior all-conference team member struck out five and walked three.

Ana Coscorrosa joined Wooden with one extra-base hit, drilling a double in four trips to the plate. Jennifer Ringle and Dominique Hannah each added singles and walked twice. The Lady Flames left 11 runners on base, with the Blazers stranding 10. All totaled, Lee committed four field miscues.

For Belhaven (25-22), Jessica Paris and Chelsea Randle each had a pair of hits, with Randle tallying a pair of runs batted in. Paris threw four innings to move to 10-8, allowing one run on three hits. Shelby Watson worked three scoreless innings to earn her second save of the season.

The 10th-ranked Lady Flames have a long road to battle back into the double-elimination tournament, starting with Friday's contest at 2 p.m. The Lady Flames will take on the winner of Emmanuel College (Ga.) and Shorter University (Ga.). The Lady Lions and Lady Hawks will compete, Friday at 10 a.m.

Belhaven defeated Emmanuel in Thursday's first game and will now battle Auburn University-Montgomery, Friday at noon.

Information provided by Lee University Sports Information and GoLeeFlames.com.