February 3, 2012

Saints Struggle in Season Opener, Fall to Saint Leo

Contact David Beall, jdbeall@northgeorgia.edu

VALDOSTA, GA – The North Georgia baseball team could do little right in their season opener Friday evening, falling 14-2 to Saint Leo on the opening day of the Comfort Suites Classic at Billy Grant Field.

The Saints (0-1) struggled on the mound, using six pitchers and walking nine batters as the Lions (1-0) scored early and often on the way to their first win of the season. 

Saint Leo stole all the momentum early with a three spot in the first inning. Ryan Brnovich led off the game and ripped a double to the gap in left center and later came around to score the first run of the game. The Lions added two more runs later in the frame, both coming with two outs, as a hit by pitch and wild pitch handed the Saint Leo a 3-0 first-inning advantage.

North Georgia fought right back in the bottom half of the inning when Jordan Erisman lifted a fly ball to right field that was lost in the lights, resulting in a lead off double. The Saints played some small ball from there with a Derek Hooper sacrifice bunt and a groundout to plate Erisman and put North Georgia on the board. 

Saint Leo got the bats going again in the third inning and the North Georgia defense added plenty of help to give the Lions three more runs. Daniel Torres stepped to the plate with a pair of runners in scoring position and a swinging bunt brought both Saint Leo runners racing to the plate courtesy of a North Georgia throwing error. Torres later capped the rally on a double steal to give the Lions a 6-1 lead.

North Georgia came right back in the bottom half of the frame and were one swing away from climbing back into it, but Brad Barto struck out swinging with the bases loaded to end the threat. 

The game would go scoreless until the sixth inning when the Lions added four more runs to their lead. Zach Miller had the big blow, a stand up double down the left field line to plate three and stretch the lead to 10-1. Saint Leo pushed four more across in the ninth, highlighted by a Chris Newcomb two-run blast to left field to cap a 14-run outburst by the Lions to open the season.

Andrew Gordon was one of the only offensive sparks for the Saints, going 3-for4 at the plate, including a run scoring double in the ninth inning to plate Eason Spivey for the final run of the game for North Georgia. 

Wes Coberly (0-1) got the start for the Saints and lasted just 1.0 inning, allowing two hits and three earned runs, while walking a pair.

Cody Clickner did the bulk of the work for North Georgia out of the pen, tossing 4.1 innings and giving up five runs, but just two of those were earned. He also tallied six strikeouts in his 2012 debut. 

Aaron Brandt (1-0) picked up the win for the Lions, going 5.0 innings and giving up five hits and only one run. Matthew Hewitt tossed 3.0 innings of relief work and did not allow a run while striking out five.

The Saints return to action tomorrow evening on day two of the Comfort Suites Classic, taking on tournament host Valdosta State. First pitch is slated for 5:00 p.m. at Billy Grant Field. In the opening game of the classic the Blazers came out on top of a 6-2 decision with Lindenwood.