MARS HILL, N.C. – The Lions' baseball team will meet the no. 3 seed, Newberry, in the 2017 Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament. The teams will meet at the Smokies Stadium in Kodak, Tenn., in game five of the event at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 28.
Mars Hill finished the regular season as the fourth seed in the tournament after posting a 14-9 league record. The Lions finished with a .609 winning percentage in the SAC regular season, the highest by a MHU team since the 2010 campaign. Mars Hill finished 29-19 overall this year.
The Lions are playing their best baseball of the season in the last portion of their schedule. Mars Hill has won 13 of their last 15 contests including a 9-2 mark in the SAC since April 1, 2017.
Pitching has been key in the Lions' success. Mars Hill's pitching staff had the best team earned run average (ERA) in the SAC. After the final conference game, the Lions had a 4.26 ERA and currently the team boasts an ERA of 4.18. Honorable Mention All-SAC selection Zac Brown led the Lions in wins on the mound with a 6-3 record and an earned run average of 3.51. He has thrown 77 innings with 75 strikeouts. Brown was also selected to the SAC Gold Glove Team. Alec Bivins tallied four wins while Jared Matthewson, Caleb Edwards, Tom Mastrodonato, Blaine Farrell and Troy Hall each recorded three wins on the year. Edwards leads the team with six pick-offs. Kaleb McCurry and Matthewson lead the staff with two saves apiece. McCurry leads the Lions with a 2.28 ERA followed by Fausto Turro with a 2.60 ERA. McCurry and Turro lead the team with 16 relief appearances apiece. The Lions have also been solid defensively posting a .957 team fielding percentage.
First Team All-SAC second baseman Hunter Merrill leads the Lions' offense. He is hitting .408 that places him second in the SAC in that category. He leads the league in stolen bases (27), second in on-base percentage (.509) and fourth in triples (4). Merrill is tenth in the nation in stolen bases per game (0.67). He is second on the team in runs scored (47) as well. Second Team All-SAC outfielder Brett Brubaker follows with a .341 average. A true power hitter for the Lions, Brubaker is third in the SAC in homeruns (13) and RBI (54); and sixth in doubles (16). Brubaker leads MHU with a .671 slugging percentage. First baseman Travis Owens has a .339 batting average with seven doubles, two homeruns and 18 RBI. Catcher Matt Honeycutt is batting .321 with seven doubles, a triple, five homeruns and is second on the team with 32 RBI. Catcher/designated hitter Christian Stampler has a .315 average with six doubles, a triple, five homeruns and has driven in 31 runs. Outfielder Daniel Vitello is hitting .312 with 15 doubles, three triples, a homerun, 24 RBI, 12 stolen bases and has scored 50 runs. Vitello ranks fifth in the league in runs scored and is eighth in the league in doubles and stolen bases. Outfielder Devin Mangum is tied with Merrill with four triples on the season. Mangum has also stolen 12 bases for Mars Hill. As a team, the Lions led the SAC in stolen bases per game (1.69).
Newberry won two of the three games against the Lions in the regular season. All three meetings were close contests. Mars Hill won the first game 4-2 before the Wolves beat the Lions 10-9 and 2-0.
Click the links below to access the full printable bracket and the official 2017 Pilot/Flying J SAC Baseball Tournament website: