Albany State first baseman Uwen Udofia holds Saint Leo University’s Chris Newcomb on the bag in Monday’s season opener for the Golden Rams, who lost, 5-3, and fell to 1-9 overall.
ALBANY — Albany State got a complete-game effort from a freshman starter in its home opener Monday, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Saint Leo (Fla.) University.
The Lions scored in the fifth inning to break a 3-3 tie and added an insurance run in the ninth to down Albany State baseball, 5-3, spoiling the Rams’ debut at home.
Freshman lefty A.J. Hart went all nine innings for ASU (1-9), throwing 115 pitches in the loss to drop him to 0-2. Hart, though, kept the 10-2 Lions in check for most of the night with six strikeouts while allowing 10 hits and five walks.
“I felt good,” said Hart, who rarely pitched at Allatoona High School the last two seasons before throwing 16 innings in his first two collegiate starts. “My changeup is my best pitch and it was working.”
ASU trailed 3-1 after the third inning following Michael Revell’s solo homer to right field, but the Rams’ rallied to tie it at 3-3 when former Westover star Jacob Campbell laced a two-run single in the fourth inning to bring home Juan Waters and Dexter Moody.
Hart was still upset with the solo homer he allowed after the game despite a strong effort.
“I probably should have thrown something off speed,” Hart said. “He caught it fastball in.”
The game stayed tied until the fifth when Saint Leo’s Chris Newcomb singled, stole second after being picked off at first and still beating the throw to second and then advanced to third.
Newcomb scored for a 4-3 Lions’ lead on a straight steal of home that caught Hart and the Rams off guard.
“We can compete with pretty much anybody,” ASU head coach Kenyan Conner said. “The only concern I have is us not finishing innings and giving up unearned runs.”
The Rams committed just two errors on the night, but the offense was silenced after tying the game in the fourth by Lions reliever Matt Hewitt (2-0), who picked up the win in relief. Hewiit went six innings, allowing just three hits and no runs with seven strikeouts.
The Rams had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on Allen Hardy’s groundout to score Corbin Williams. Saint Leo answered in the second when Frank Rawdow hit a high chopper just out of reach of Rams third baseman Waters’ glove to score two runs to give the Lions their first lead.
Conner was pleased with the effort at home from his starting pitcher after a rough start to the season with just one win in the first nine games on the road to open the year.
“(Hart) hadn’t pitched in over a week,” Conner said of leaving the freshman in for nine innings. “He wanted to go, and he was in great shape.”
ASU managed just five hits on the night, led by Moody’s 2-for-3 showing at the plate. Moody, the only Rams’ hitter with multiple hits, has started five straight games in center field after transitioning from the football field to the baseball diamond.
“He homered in his first game,” Conner said of Moody, who led Division II football in interceptions last season and hasn’t played baseball in years. “We expect him to get in the groove, and he’s going to help.”
Ryan Brnovich led Saint Leo with three hits.
ASU goes back on the road again Thursday in Americus against Georgia Southwestern State to start another three-game road trip before returning home Feb. 26 against Valdosta State.