CLEVELAND, Tenn. – The University of Rio Grande baseball team saw its weekend trip to the round-robin Tennessee Valley Invitational end with a pair of losses on Saturday as the RedStorm dropped a pair of decisions to nationally-ranked opponents.
Madonna University, ranked 24th in the preseason coaches poll, rallied late to post a 4-1 win over Rio in the first of Saturday’s two contests, while No. 3 Lee University exploded early and went on to post a 9-0 win over the RedStorm in the nightcap.
Rio Grande finished the weekend with one win in four tries and now sits at 4-4 on the season.
In the opening game, Madonna spotted Rio an early 1-0 lead before tying the game in the top of the third and pushing across the decisive markers in the seventh and final inning.
The RedStorm took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when sophomore Isac Franklin reached on a two-out walk, moved to second when senior Shane Spies was hit by a pitch and scored on a single to right-center by senior Vince Perry.
The Crusaders (2-1) tied the game in the third against Rio junior starter Michael Deitsch when Brad Lineberry singled with one out, Victor Barron drew a walk, Justin Cook was hit by a pitch and Matthew Cook drew a bases-loaded walk.
That’s how things stayed until the top of the seventh when Madonna posted a two-out, three-run uprising.
Jeff Beckles opened the frame with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Alex Charles, who was promptly forced out a second on Donny Holland’s fielder’s choice grounder to first. Mike Tibbits came in to run for Holland and, one out later, moved to second on a wild pitch before scoring on a single to right by Lineberry.
Sophomore Anthony Bond came on in relief of Deitsch and surrendered a single to Barron which advanced Lineberry into scoring position. Both runners scored moments later when Justin Cook’s grounder to second base was errored.
Rio Grande put a runner into scoring position with two outs in the seventh when senior Kyle Perez walked and took second on defensive indifference, but Madonna reliever Randall Stempek sealed the win and nailed down his first save by inducing freshman Chris Ford into a game-ending groundout to shortstop.
Josh Deeg scattered four hits and four walks over six innings to earn the win for the Crusaders. Lineberry finished 4-for-4 at the plate, while Barron was 2-for-3.
Rio Grande’s only extra-base hit was a leadoff double by Spies in the fourth inning. Deitsch (1-1) allowed seven hits and all four runs – only two of which were earned – over 6.2 innings.
In the nightcap, host Lee University lowered the boom early on the RedStorm with three runs in the first inning and five more runs in the second.
Corey Davis homered, while Karsten Strieby and Roberto Duran had run-scoring singles in the first for the Flames. Brady Renner clubbed a two-run home run to highlight the five-run second, while Derrick Pitts and Duran added sacrifice flies and Jordan Stewart had an RBI single.
Duran also had a run-scoring hit in the home fourth to close out the scoring.
Four different Flames pitchers limited Rio Grande to just three hits – all singles. Starter Jose Samayoa allowed a hit and struck out one over the first three innings to get his second win in as many decisions.
Junior starter David Steele allowed five runs and as many hits in one-plus innings on the mound, suffering his second loss in as many decisions for the RedStorm.
Strieby and Duran had two hits each in the Flames’ nine-hit attack.
Rio Grande returns to action this weekend when it opens the “home” portion of the schedule with a three-game series against Roosevelt University at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe. A doubleheader is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m., with the final game of the set slated for Saturday at noon.