Lions Top Wonder Boys 8-3 at GSC Tourney

North Alabama did all of the little things required to win postseason games and the Lions defeated the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys 8-3 in the first round of the 2010 Gulf South Conference Baseball Tournament at Ferriss Field in Cleveland, Miss., on Monday.

With the loss, Arkansas Tech (34-18) falls into the losers’ bracket and will face elimination in a 9:30 a.m. game on Tuesday.

The Wonder Boys will face Henderson State in that elimination contest. The Reddies (31-17) dropped an 8-7 decision to West Florida in the first round on Monday.

Radio station KVLD 99.3 FM and will have the broadcast of Tuesday’s game.

North Alabama (28-22) has the lowest team batting average and the fewest home runs this season of any team in the GSC Tournament, but the Lions overcame their shortcomings by beating out four infield hits, stealing five bases, recording two sacrifices and turning two double plays on Monday.

Meanwhile, Arkansas Tech committed four errors and failed to string together enough hits to mount a comeback once it fell behind.

The game got off to a bad start for Tech when its starting third baseman, Nick Makris, was injured in the top of the first inning and had to check out.

Despite that early misfortune, the Wonder Boys led 1-0 after three innings courtesy of a Matt Johnson’ RBI ground out in the bottom of the third.

Two infield singles and a balk fueled a fourth-inning UNA rally that gave the Lions the lead for good. Dewayne Gunn drove in the tying run with a single back to the pitcher and Jacob Lamar put North Alabama in front with a sacrifice fly. Kevin Williams came home on Lamar’s fly out to center field and UNA led 2-1.

The fifth inning was the decisive frame in the game, and once again, the Lions did all their damage without hitting the ball hard.

An infield single by Ross Parker got it started. He stole second and Blake Stroth sent a single through the right side to put runners at the corners with no one out. Soon after, Stroth went to second on a wild pitch.

Jared Mothershed followed with a sacrifice bunt, but the Wonder Boys did not field it cleanly. Parker scored to make it 3-1 and runners were again at the corners with none out.

After Mothershed stole second base, Chase Porch drove in Stroth with ground out and Williams brought Mothershed home on a single. North Alabama led 5-1 going to the bottom of the fifth, and UNA starting pitcher Mitch Handley made sure that would be enough.

Handley (6-4) went the distance for his first complete game of the season. He scattered 10 hits over nine innings and allowed three runs. Handley struck out five and walked none.

Josh Floriani (10-3) was saddled with the loss. He surrendered eight runs, six earned, on 10 hits in nine innings. Floriani struck out four.

One bright spot for Arkansas Tech came in the sixth inning. Matt Johnson reached on a fielder’s choice and stole two bases to bring his season total to 34. When Johnson stole third with one out in the sixth, he surpassed Sammy May’s 57-year old school record for stolen bases in a season. May swiped 33 bases for the 1953 Wonder Boys.

Johnson has also surpassed the school records for runs scored and base hits in a season this year. He has tied the school mark for triples in a season.

Chad Wynn and Clint Stroud were both 3-for-4 for Arkansas Tech on Monday. Stroud hit his fifth home run of the season on a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth that set the eventual final score.

Joe Walton added two hits and Chris Reese was 1-for-4 with a run scored for the Wonder Boys.