BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Union kept its Appalachian Athletic Conference regular-season championship hopes alive with a conference doubleheader sweep of visiting Bryan (Tenn.) College Friday, winning 9-6 and 6-4.
The Bulldogs improve to 35-13 overall and 19-6 in the AAC. They are in a virtual dead heat right now with Tennessee Wesleyan, which entered play Friday with an 18-6 league mark. Tennessee Wesleyan is playing its final AAC series at UVa-Wise this weekend.
Should Tennessee Wesleyan lose one game at UVa-Wise, Union will be forced to make up its rained out game at Reinhardt (Ga.). However, if Tennessee Wesleyan drops two at UVa-Wise, the Bulldogs will win the regular-season crown regardless. But a sweep of UVa-Wise will clinch the championship for Tennessee Wesleyan.
The losses extend Bryan's losing skid to eight games as it falls to 20-32 overall and 11-15 in league play.
Union and Bryan will wrap up the series Saturday at 10 a.m.
The Bulldogs received a solid performance out of sophomore catcher Jonathan Riddle (Eighty Eight, Ky.), who went 3-for-7 on the day with three RBIs. Senior Tyler Martin (Corbin, Ky.) recorded a good outing, stealing five bases on the afternoon and went 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
On the mound, Jason Parsons (Hamilton, Ohio) notched his sixth and seventh saves of the season, tossing a total of 2 1/3 innings and allowing no runs, no hits and no walks with four strikeouts.
Bryan jumped out of the gate early, grabbing an early 2-0 lead. However, a pair of four-run rallies propelled Union to the 9-6 win.
Pablo Rodriguez got the scoring going in the first inning with a two-run home run to left, giving the Lions a 2-0 cushion. But the lead was short-lived as Union pushed four runs across in the bottom of the inning and never looked back.
Union scored its first two runs without a RBI as Demetrius Davis (Marietta, Ga.) scored on a throwing error and Ryan Satterlee (Youngstown, Ohio) came home thanks to a passed ball. Troy Sitton (Cobden, Ill.) and Josh Longbrake (St. Cloud, Fla.) each added run-scoring hits to push the margin to 4-2.
The Bulldogs tacked on four more runs in the third, stretching the lead to 8-2. Riddle lined a single up the middle for a two-run hit, while Satterlee added a two-run double to make it a six-run contest.
Bryan made things interesting in the fifth with a four-run outburst of its own. Rodriguez lined a RBI double and later scored on Shane Clawson's two-run home run, cutting the deficit to 8-5. Tyler Wooden tacked on a run-scoring single to pull the Lions within 8-6.
In the bottom of the fifth, Brian Mouton (Oakland, Calif.) belted a run-scoring double off the left-center field wall to give Union a 9-6 cushion.
Parsons then recorded the final five outs of the game for the Bulldogs, sealing the three-run victory.
The Bulldogs top three hitters in the lineup - Davis, Satterlee and Mouton - combined to go 5-for-9 with three RBIs and four runs scored. Union stole a season-high nine bases in the win with Martin swiping four.
Brandon Hedrick (Corbin, Ky.) picked up the win to up his record to 10-0 as he allowed five earned runs on six hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
Rodriguez led the Lion attack with a 3-for-4 performance as he drove in three runs and scored twice. Josh Harris suffered the loss to drop to 5-3 in giving up eight earned runs on seven hits, three walks and two hit batters with one strikeout.
Just like the first game, Bryan seized the early advantage but was unable to hold on as Union picked up the 6-4 decision.
Rodriguez continued his hot hitting as he singled in a run in the first inning to put the Lions up 1-0.
Union pieced together a three-run rally in the second to take a two-run lead. Martin singled in a run to even the ledger, and Riddle drove in the go-ahead run. A couple batters later, pinch-runner Ben Hartley (Lexington, Ky.) scored on a passed ball to put Union up 3-1.
In the third, Harris singled in a run to pull Bryan within 3-2. However, Union scored twice in the bottom of the frame for a 5-2 advantage.
The Bulldogs tacked on an insurance run in the sixth when Martin singled to drove in Hartley for a 6-2 cushion.
Bryan attempted a comeback as Kevin Layne singled in a run and later scored on a wild pitch to make it a 6-4 contest. However, Parsons got the two batters he faced out in recording his seventh save of the year.
The Lions outhit the Bulldogs 9-5, but Union was helped out by seven bases on balls. Martin was the only Bulldog with multiple hits as he went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and a stolen base.
Adam Snyder (Knoxville, Tenn.) picked up the win to up his record to 6-3 as he gave up four runs, three earned, on nine hits and no walks with six strikeouts.
For Bryan, Rodriguez finished 2-for-4 with a RBI, and Jonathan Davis went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Josh Smith suffered the loss, allowing six runs, five earned, on five hits and seven walks with five strikeouts in going the distance.