Series recap: Lions ultimately come up short in catfight against Memphis Tigers


Samantha Sims

Fifth-year senior center fielder Tyler Finke slides in safely at third base during Southeastern’s 6-1 victory over Memphis on Saturday in game two of the series at Alumni Field. (March 18, 2023)

Southeastern Baseball matched up against the Memphis Tigers in a three-game homestand that stretched through the weekend. The Lions captured a win but ultimately lost the series, 2-1.  

Heading into the series, the Lions were 11-6, averaging 9.2 runs per game. They squared up against two ranked teams, No. 11 Auburn and No. 25 Southern Miss. in their four previous matchups. During that challenging stretch, the club went an impressive 2-2. 

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Brennan Stuprich was given the ball to start the series opener, which took place on Friday, March 17. He began the game sizzling from the mound, allowing only one hit and one walk while recording four strikeouts to keep the Tigers scoreless through three innings. 

In the bottom of the first, the Lions quickly took advantage of Stuprich’s blistering start. After working a full count, junior designated hitter Jake Killingsworth smacked an RBI single through left field to put the Lions on the board first, 1-0. 

Killingsworth’s RBI single proved to be the lone run scored through the first three innings. After his hit, the Lions left six men stranded to keep the score at 1-0 heading into the fourth. 

Memphis broke the defensive struggle in the top of the fourth after sophomore shortstop Tyler Heckert hit a two-out RBI single down the middle to tie the game, 1-1. 

The Lions’ offense immediately responded in the bottom of the inning after a single from redshirt senior Champ Artigues sent senior right fielder Clay Cook dashing home to regain the lead, 2-1. 

The cats went tit-for-tat during the fifth. In the top of the inning, junior left fielder Austin Baskin hit an RBI single to right field to equalize the score. Southeastern immediately followed with an RBI from sixth-year senior catcher Connor Manola to reclaim the lead, 3-2. 

The top of the sixth inning began in discouraging fashion for the home team, as junior third baseman Logan Kohler hit a solo shot to right field to once again tie things up. With three Lions up and three Lions down in the bottom of the inning, the contest stayed tied entering the seventh. 

Stuprich was replaced by junior pitcher Aaron Hosack to begin the seventh, ending his night on the mound. In six stellar innings, he allowed two earned runs, six hits, three walks and tossed six strikeouts. 

Hosack loaded the bases before giving up an RBI sacrifice fly to Kohler that secured the Tigers’ first lead of the night. The Lions once again went three up-three down to end the seventh inning in a one-run deficit. 

Hosack was pulled after just one inning in favor of sophomore pitcher Lance Lauve, who pitched the final two innings. He concluded a wonderful Lions pitching display by giving up zero runs across the eighth and ninth innings, giving up two hits and recording a strikeout to give his team a chance at a comeback. 

Unfortunately, such a comeback never materialized for the Lions. Despite Lauve’s excellent close, the Lions failed to produce even a single run en route to a 4-3 loss. 

The following game, which was played on Saturday, March 18, began in a strikingly similar manner. Junior pitcher Will Kinzeler took the mound for the Lions and, like Strupich, had an electric start to the game. Memphis sent three up and Kinzeler sat three down by inducing a ground out and two fly-outs to close the top of the first. 

Like in the first game, the Lions once again struck the Tigers in the first after a bases-loaded walk from junior SS TJ Salvaggio sent junior second baseman Rhett Rosevear home and put them on the board, 1-0. 

This time, however, they managed to double their scoring output from the previous game’s first inning with an RBI single from Cook. The first inning concluded with the Lions on top early, 2-0. 

The second, third and fourth innings came and went with no change to the scoreboard. The top of the fifth inning followed suit, as Kinzeler continued his domination on the mound with another three-up-three-down inning. 

The bottom of the fifth inning, however, proved to be much more eventful than the prior innings. The Lions collectively produced three hits, three stolen bases and a walk, culminating in a three-run scoring outburst. 

The first run came from an RBI fielder’s choice from Killingsworth. The next two runs were sent home off an RBI single that senior 3B Shea Thomas swatted down the middle to put the Lions ahead, 5-0.  

For Kinzeler, it was business as usual, keeping the Tigers scoreless through six.  

The Lions tacked on a run to pad their lead in the bottom of the sixth after fifth-year senior center fielder Tyler Finke smacked an RBI double to left field. The sixth inning closed with the Lions in the driver’s seat, 6-0. 

Kinzeler’s shutout bid was broken up in the top of the seventh following an RBI single from Kohler. Kinzeler maintained his composure, though, to close out the inning with just one run allowed after generating two fly-outs and a groundout. The Lions were scoreless in the bottom of the seventh to end the inning, 6-1.

Kinzeler’s magnificent outing on the mound ended when freshman pitcher Lakin Polk replaced him for the final two innings of the game. In seven innings of work, he allowed just a single run, three hits and three walks and threw four strikeouts. 

The Lions’ stellar pitching continued from Polk; the closer allowed just two hits, two walks and zero runs across the eighth and ninth innings to seal the victory for the Lions and tie the series. 

In spite of the win, coach Matt Riser expressed some concerns about his team’s seemingly relaxed demeanor throughout the final innings. 

“I wasn’t really happy after [today’s] performance because I thought we had a chance to really put them away and we didn’t. We coasted,” Riser said. 

The final game of the series, which took place on Sunday, March 19 served as the rubber match between the two squads. Junior pitcher Andrew Landry was given the nod to lead the Lions into the catfight finale. 

The theme of pitching prowess in the early innings continued into the final game, as neither team scored a run throughout the first three innings. Landry, like his predecessors, had an incredible start to the game. He gave up just two hits and a walk and threw a pair of strikeouts. 

He ran into trouble, however, at the top of the fourth. Sophomore catcher Jonah Sutton got to Landry with a two-out, two-run RBI single to right center to put the Tigers on the board, 2-0. He got the fly-out immediately after to end the inning, but not without the Lions taking a scratch heading into the bottom of the fourth. 

Killingsworth smacked another RBI single to halve the road team’s lead, 2-1. After his single, the game became a defensive affair through the fifth and sixth innings, as neither team made it home in that span. 

Landry continued his marvelous night on the mound. He was taken out before the seventh in favor of junior pitcher Jackson Rodriguez. Landry tossed six innings of two-run ball and gave up eight hits and a walk and recorded four strikeouts. 

After a fielding error put sophomore third baseman Jake Curtis on base to start the seventh, Rodriguez gave up a triple down the right field line to sophomore designated hitter Cameron Benson that brought Curtis home for an unearned run, 3-1. 

A Kohler single down the middle sent Benson for another unearned run before a Heckert fly-out brought the inning to a close. The Lions managed to cut the deficit in half off of an RBI single to center field from freshman pinch hitter McGwire Turner; however, they still trailed by two heading into the final two innings. 

Redshirt senior Hayden Robb replaced Rodriguez to close out the eighth and ninth innings, though he fared much worse in the closer role. In a blown-up eighth inning, he allowed four runs to score to bury the Lions in a late six-run deficit. First, after he intentionally walked senior first baseman Anthony Hansen, he threw a wild pitch that brought Sutton home and tacked on a run for the Tigers, 5-2. Next, a one-run RBI single from Baskin and a two-run RBI single from Kohler scored three more runs to balloon Memphis’ lead, 8-2. 

The game and series came to a close after the Lions failed to respond in each of the final two innings. The home team exited the field shouldering a 2-1 series loss. 

After the game, Riser voiced his frustration over his team’s lack of execution during the past few weeks. 

“We just have to play better baseball. In all honesty, in the last couple of weeks, we haven’t played very well. After a series win against Auburn, you’re supposed to take that moment and run with it, and we’ve really just laid an egg this week. This has been poor to see,” he said. 

Thomas was critical of his team’s lack of energy heading into Sunday’s matchup. 

“I think it’s just us not getting locked in and not having energy from the start. We felt that from the beginning and that’s not something you can pick up halfway through the game. You have to show up to the ballpark with that energy and intent,” he said. 

He felt there are areas in which the team needs to improve and that they have “stuff to work on” to prepare themselves for the next outing. 

On the flip side, Manola maintained a positive outlook on the series and looked forward to what they could learn as they inch closer to conference play. 

“We had a lot of fight at times but we’re just hunting for our consistency right now. We had some good moments in the early part of the game. The last three innings we let it slip away from us, but we’re going to take from that, learn from that and try to move forward,” Manola said. 

The Lions dropped their most recent game against ULL 2-0 in Lafayette on Wednesday and are now 12-9 on the season and losers of four of their last five contests. 

Southeastern will next hit the diamond in Texas against the 11-11 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders starting today at 6 p.m. at Chapman Field.

Tune in to ESPN+ to watch SLU open up Southland Conference play. Games two and three are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m.

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