LMU Baseball beats King, shave heads for Vs. Cancer Foundation

  HARROGATE, Tenn. — Seniors Colin Buckner (Harrodsburg, Ky.) and    Kelvin Brito (Yabucoa, Puerto Rico) both went deep in their final appearance at Lamar Hennon Field to lead the Railsplitters (24-18) to a 12-6 win over the King Tornado (21-24) in NCAA Division II baseball action on Wednesday in Harrogate, Tenn.

In conjunction with Lincoln Memorial’s final home game, the Railsplitters culminated their season-long fundraising effort for the Vs. Cancer Foundation – a non-profit organization committed to funding pediatric cancer research – by hosting a head-shaving event. LMU players and members of the coaching staff shaved their heads immediately following the last out of the Railsplitters’ win over the Tornado as a public show of support for victims of pediatric cancer.

The Railsplitters used three big innings, scoring three runs in the second and eighth frames with a four-run outburst in the fifth tossed in the mix, to distance themselves from King and avenge a 6-4 loss from back on March 31.

Lincoln Memorial racked up double-digit hits for the fourth consecutive game, piling up 16 in the contest. Buckner led the way with a career-high four hits that included two RBI, two runs scored, a home run and a double. Brito went 2-for-5 at the dish with three RBI, three runs and a home run, while Kyle Floyd (Windsor, Ill.) and Brandon Morris (Knoxville, Tenn.) contributed two hits apiece. Floyd reached safely in all four plate appearances with two walks showing on his stat ledger. Tanner Latham (Knoxville, Tenn.) drove in two runs.

The Railsplitters built as large as a 7-0 lead before the Tornado produced any offense to speak of. Floyd kick started a three-run flurry in the bottom of the second with a leadoff double. With Brito batting, Floyd stole third and watched as the opposing catcher’s throw kicked into left field, scoring easily on the error. Brito struck out during his at-bat, but the ball bounced away on a wild pitch to void the whiff. Buckner then put runners on second and third with a double. Latham made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly out, while Morris worked a nine-pitch at-bat that resulted in an RBI single down the right-field line.

LMU hung four more runs on the board in the fifth stanza on RBI singles from Ryan Burlison (Romeoville, Ill.) and Buckner, an RBI groundout by Latham and a run-scoring wild pitch.

King produced all six of their runs in the next two innings, putting up three runs in back-to-back frames. Ryan O’Neal put the Tornado on the board with a two-run home run with one out in the sixth, while another run scored in that inning on a double steal that saw Latham’s throw to second skip into center field.

The Railsplitters erased one of those runs in the home half of the sixth as Scott Miller (Knoxville, Tenn.) walked and scored on a two-out double by Floyd. But a two-run single by Derrick Moore and an RBI knock from Brad Donathan for King in the visitor’s half of the seventh trimmed the LMU lead to 8-6.

Buckner and Brito’s bombs accounted for the only four runs in the remainder of the contest, though. Buckner went deep with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the seventh to tally the first home run of his senior season, while Brito blasted a three-run dinger with one out in the eighth. It marked Brito’s fifth home run of the season and first since going deep twice against Ohio Valley on March 21.

Right-hander Jake Watkins (Powder Springs, Ga.) stymied the Tornado over five innings of scoreless work, allowing just three hits without a walk to improve to 3-3. Four different relievers were used to get six outs in the sixth and seventh innings, but Nick Morabito (Vienna, Va.) closed it out with two nearly perfect innings. Morabito did not allow a hit in his two-inning stead with four strikeouts showing on his ledger.

Moore paced the Tornado’s 10-hit effort with three hits and two RBI, while O’Neal went 2-for-5 with two RBI. Grant Boyd was the pitcher of record, dropping to 0-2 after relinquishing eight hits and two earned runs over five innings.

In many ways, the action on the field took a backseat to what followed the final pitch: the second-annual head-shaving event to culminate and celebrate another successful fundraising effort to benefit the Vs. Cancer Foundation. Prior to the 2015 campaign, Coach Jeff Sziksai and his staff set a goal to raise $6,000 towards the Vs. Cancer Foundation. That initiative set in motion a tireless and selfless effort by the players, families and friends connected to the LMU baseball program. By the end of Wednesday’s contest, with the additional donations that were collected throughout the evening, the Railsplitters had exceeded a $7,000 contribution to the fight against childhood cancers.

The Railsplitters will continue to collect donations through the end of the 2015 season. Online contributions can be made here.

The Railsplitters close out the regular season this weekend with a three-game South Atlantic Conference series at Anderson, with first pitch in game one set for 6 p.m. on Friday.

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