Lions fail to defend Pontchartrain Bowl title in series sweep


Samantha Sims

Lions talk things over on the mound during a 5-2 defeat to UIW at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field. (April 1, 2023)

This weekend, Southeastern Baseball traveled to the University of New Orleans (UNO) and failed to defend its 2022 Pontchartrain Bowl title against the Privateers. The disheartening series sweep extended the Lions’ current losing streak to six games. 

Since 2015, the Lions and the Privateers have competed for the right to hoist the Pontchartrain Bowl trophy. The lifetime series is now 5-3,  with Southeastern still having the upper hand despite UNO’s victory over the weekend.

Coming into the series, the Lions were 16-13, averaging 7.1 runs per game. Their previous outing was a 10-6 loss at the University of Southern Mississippi on Tuesday, April 4.

The bowl began with a doubleheader on Thursday, April 6, with a scoreless first inning for the Lions. 

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Brennan Stuprich (3-3) took the mound to start for the Green and Gold at the bottom of the first. His outing, though, did not fare as the Lions had planned. 

Stuprich gave up a home run in a blown-up bottom of the first, culminating in six runs for the Privateers. 

He started the bottom of the first by walking shortstop Kasten Furr. The next batter, junior second baseman Tyler Bischke, hit a two-run homer to left field off of him. 

Despite the shaky start, Stuprich looked to compose himself, as he struck out the next batter and got the second out on a fly ball to left field.  

His hopes to quickly exit an underwhelming inning would be completely decimated, though; a succession of four RBI singles from junior third baseman Dylan Mach, senior catcher Jorge Tejeda, junior center fielder Issac Williams and Furr turned an unfortunate start for Stuprich into an outright disaster. 

The Lions finally managed to exit the inning after throwing out Williams at third. Southeastern headed into the second looking to claw back from an early deficit, 6-0. 

Each team went scoreless in the second. The Lions’ six-run deficit remained heading into the third. 

Southeastern’s frozen offense persisted, though. Stuprich faced similar woes at the bottom of the third as he did in the first; after flying out Williams, he surrendered an RBI double to Furr, tacking another run onto Southeastern’s deficit. 

Stuprich’s afternoon would come to a close following the double. In 2.1 innings, he gave up eight hits, seven earned runs and three walks and recorded a strikeout. 

Sophomore pitcher Jack Walker took the bump in Stuprich’s place. He managed to stem UNO’s offense for the rest of the inning. The Green and Gold prepared for the top of the fourth in an even deeper hole, 7-0. 

Southeastern had a rather eventful top of the fourth, though not because of the team’s offense: hitting coach Ford Pemberton was ejected from the game. On the field, however, the Lions’ offense remained stagnant through the fourth inning. 

Walker gave up a two-run home run to redshirt sophomore right fielder Mitchell Sanford in the bottom of the fourth. The Lions had to step up to bat in the fifth against a greater deficit than before, 9-0.

Neither team had much to show throughout the next three innings. While UNO kept Southeastern’s bats at bay, Walker prevented the Privateers from reaching ten runs, which would have triggered an early conclusion to the game via run-rule. His night would come to a close after the bottom of the seventh when he closed out the inning by tossing a pair of strikeouts. 

After a brief 1-2-3 for Southeastern at the top of the eighth, redshirt junior pitcher Jacob Scherer replaced Walker on the mound.

In 4.2 innings of work, Walker gave up four hits, three walks and two earned runs and threw three strikeouts.

Scherer’s mission to keep the game alive almost immediately fell apart. He allowed Williams to hit a walk-off RBI single to left field, ending the first half of the doubleheader.

The Lions had a cavalcade of chances to respond throughout the game, but did not capitalize. In total, they left ten runners stranded on base. Only one needed to stride home to bring the game into the ninth inning and allow the Lions to stage an unlikely but possible comeback. 

Instead, the Lions failed to convert an ample amount of opportunities and lost the first of the back-to-back, 10-0. 

If the first game was disastrous, then the second proved to be cataclysmic. In an utterly demoralizing outing for the Green and Gold, UNO outscored the club by twenty runs, ending the game after only 6.5 innings. 

Southeastern’s offensive struggles from the first game carried over to the next, as they once again opened the game with a scoreless first inning. 

Junior pitcher Aaron Hosack took the start for Southeastern in the second game of the doubleheader. He gave up a two-run RBI double to right field to junior designated hitter Miguel Useche. An RBI single to center field from senior first baseman Anthony Herron Jr. and a two-run RBI single from junior third baseman Dylan Mach sandwiched a groundout from Sanford. 

Following Mach’s single, Hosack’s night came to an unceremonious end. He recorded a single out and allowed five earned runs in his 0.1 innings of work. 

Fifth-year senior pitcher Hunter O’Toole stepped in and recorded the final two outs to end the inning. Once again, UNO got to Southeastern’s starting pitchers early and often to stuff the Lions into an early, lengthy deficit. The Lions looked to rebound in the second, 6-0. 

In the top of the second, Sophomore C Michael Curry hit a sacrifice fly to center field that gave Killingsworth the time to run home and score Southeastern’s first run of the series. Though it was their only run of the second, Southeastern’s offense was already producing more than it had all afternoon. 

UNO outright obliterated any momentum the Lions may have had in the top of the inning. They pummeled Southeastern to the tune of a ten-run bottom of the second.

A ruinous inning for the club began with an RBI fielder’s choice from Herron. Southeastern’s troubles extended to the infield, though, as a throwing error from sophomore SS TJ Salvaggio brought Bischke home for an unearned run. 

A couple of RBI singles from Mach and Tejeda further compounded the Lions’ awful afternoon. 

Once Williams reached base on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, O’Toole was pulled in favor of senior pitcher Reid Reynolds. 

In 1.1 innings of work, O’Toole yielded four earned runs, three hits and a walk. 

The onslaught did not stop with the introduction of Reynolds, though; a fielding error from senior 3B Shea Thomas allowed Mach to sprint home for an unearned run. Bischke hit a two-run RBI single down the middle to add to the compiling number of unearned runs. 

Junior left fielder Tristan Moore then hit a three-run home run to pulverize the Lion’s spirits. Finally, Useche popped up to first to bring an end to a depressing inning. 

The damage was already done, though. Before Southeastern even realized, they were staring into the abyss; UNO pounced on them in the first and annihilated them in the second, all the while amassing a staggering fourteen-run lead. The Green and Gold headed into the third down 15-1. 

The third inning came and went with little fanfare. While Southeastern failed to score, junior pitcher Levi Bennett came in for Reynolds and sat down the first three batters to prevent the Privateers from tacking more runs onto the scoreboard. 

Freshman LF McGwire Turner swatted a home run to left field to lessen the tremendous deficit the Lions were in. On the defensive end, Bennett once again induced a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth and fifth to keep a blistering UNO offense in check.

Though Southeastern’s chance at staging a rally was atomically tiny, Bennett proved to be the antidote for the Privateer’s offense in his brief outing. He was subbed out for redshirt senior Hayden Robb at the bottom of the sixth. Bennett allowed zero runs, zero hits and zero walks and tossed a strikeout across three brilliant innings of pitching.

Bennett would be the lone bright spot for an otherwise gloomy Thursday afternoon for the Lions. In the bottom of the sixth, Robb gave up a three-run home run to Tejeda; Scherer took his place thereafter, who promptly gave up a back-breaking grand slam to Moore. 

In total, UNO lumped seven additional runs onto an already near-insurmountable deficit. The seventh inning began with Southeastern staring down the wrong end of a twenty-run deficit. 

The Lions’ nightmare of a doubleheader came to an end after they failed to produce even a single run in the top of the seventh. For the second time on Thursday afternoon, Southeastern suffered a run-rule loss. 

Though the run-rule is implemented to show mercy to the downtrodden, no such restraint is conveyed when beholding the 22-2 loss the Lions endured that simultaneously clinched their defeat in the Pontchartrain Bowl. 

With two embarrassing losses and no trophy to show for it, the Lions looked to close the series on Saturday, April 8 with a win to preserve at least some sense of pride.

The club put itself in a prime position to accomplish this goal. In the top of the first, Thomas smacked an RBI double to center field to give the Green and Gold their first lead in the entire series.  

Junior pitcher Andrew Landry (2-5) took the bump to start the final game of the series. Beyond an RBI single to Moore, Landry successfully thwarted a UNO offense that was scoring at will in the previous two outings.

The game morphed into a pitcher’s duel for nearly the rest of the game, as both teams failed to produce a run across the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.

Southeastern broke the tie in the top of the sixth when an RBI single from junior 2B Rhett Rosevear single put the Lions ahead with a chance to close out the final 3 ½ innings in victorious fashion.

Such potential for victory was quickly stymied, however; A two-run RBI triple from Sanford snatched away the lead from the Lions. 

That score would hold through the seventh and the top of the eighth when sophomore pitcher Lance Lauve stepped on the mound in place of Landry.

In seven innings of work, Landry gave up six hits, three earned runs and three walks and shoved three strikeouts for the best outing by a Southeastern starting pitcher in the entire series.

Lauve continued Southeastern’s fantastic day of pitching, producing a 1-2-3 inning to give the Green and Gold a chance to tie or take the lead in the ninth.

Landry and Lauve’s efforts were all for naught, though. The Lions failed to score in the top of the ninth to quietly concede defeat and the series sweep, 3-2. 

The Lions will head back home for their next outing against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12. Fans can access TicketReturn to purchase tickets for the game or access ESPN+ to watch the game live. Head to LionSports for more information on Lions Baseball.