Baseball opens conference play over spring break

Abe Spencer, #13, pitching for the Oklahoma Christian Eagles. Picture by Jenny Rigney.

Abe Spencer, #13, pitching for the Oklahoma Christian Eagles. Picture by Jenny Rigney.

Stealing a game from Lubbock Christian University and splitting with Southern Nazarene University proved to be the Oklahoma Christian University baseball team’s only wins the past two weeks, as the Eagles went 2-6 over spring break.

“We have had some games where we put up a lot of runs, but we have yet to really put those two together in the same game,” senior infielder Chase Kuwitzky said. “Once we get our offense and defense clicking at the same time, I really believe we can go on a tear through the rest of the season.”

The Eagles opened Heartland Conference play with home games against Lubbock Christian March 9 and 10. Oklahoma Christian managed three runs during the first inning, with junior Chad Kennedy hitting a 3 RBI home run to score senior Lane Paul and junior Hayden Strobel. The Chaps answered with six runs in the top of the third inning, four in the fourth and one in the sixth.

Despite a single by senior Cory Duran, which scored Kennedy in the fifth, followed by Duran’s solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, the Eagles fell 5-11 to Lubbock Christian in the conference opener.

During the second game of the day’s doubleheader, the Eagles outhit the Chaps 10-9. Lubbock Christian jumped on the boards early, leading 3-0 after the top of the second inning. During the bottom of the second, Duran hit a solo home run to left field to make the score 3-1. The Chaps scored again in the fourth to put the Eagles down 4-1.

Senior Jake Baxter led the Eagles with a double to center field in the bottom of the sixth, scoring both freshmen Drew Wright and Kennedy. During the bottom of the second, senior Jared Price scored on a throwing error by the catcher and a double by freshman Gabe Rodery scored Duran to give the Eagles the walk-off win over Lubbock Christian, 5-4.

Rodery (2-0) also picked up the win in the circle for the Eagles after junior Mason McAlister pitched the first six innings for the Eagles. McAlister managed six strikeouts and gave up six hits and two earned runs during his time on the mound. Senior Jake Moore recorded his third save of the season, relieving senior Garett Hill.

The Eagles finished the three-game series against Lubbock Christian the following day, where the Chaps went into the bottom of the fifth inning leading 5-0. During the bottom of the fifth, Paul singled to right field to score sophomore Garrett Wages. Strobel advanced to third on the play and attempted to score, but was thrown out by the right fielder.

The Chaps scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh before sophomore Ryan Ward singled to right field in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Wright. Despite both teams recording eight hits, the Eagles fell 6-2 to Lubbock Christian in the third game. The Chaps took the series 2-1.

The Eagles traveled to Bethany, OK, on March 14 to face non-conference foe Southern Nazarene, where they bested the Crimson Storm 5-3.

Oklahoma Christian jumped to an early 4-0 lead after Kennedy scored Wright on a fielder’s choice. Kuwitzky tripled down the right field line, scoring Ward, before Wright singled to shortstop, scoring both Wages and Kuwitzky.

During the bottom of the fourth, Southern Nazarene picked up two runs off a single and wild pitch, but the Eagles picked up another run with a single by Kennedy to seal the game. Wright went 2-3 from the plate for the Eagles, while Paul went 3-5 and Kuwitzky went 3-4.

Junior Peyton Blass (2-0) picked up the win in the circle for the Eagles, giving up one hit and striking out four after he relieved Rodery and junior Matthew Fusselman. Senior Joe Dell Williams recorded his first save of the season for the Eagles, relieving sophomore Connor Litterell for the ninth inning.

The Eagles continued their spring break schedule by facing the University of Central Oklahoma in a non-conference game March 15.

Central Oklahoma managed two runs in the second inning and one in the fourth and fifth before the Eagles answered with four in the top of the seventh inning. Baxter singled to left field for the Eagles, scoring Kennedy and advancing Ward to second base.

A bases-loaded walk by Kuwitzky scored Ward and Wages was hit by a pitch, scoring Baxter from third. Wright scored freshman Brock Ruminer on a sacrifice fly to left field before the Bronchos ended the inning.

Central Oklahoma scored again in the bottom of the eighth on a single, sealing the game 5-4 in the Broncho’s favor.

Oklahoma Christian resumed conference play March 17 and 18 as they traveled to San Antonio, TX, to face St. Mary’s University in a three-game series. The Rattlers swept the Eagles 3-1, 4-3 and 4-1.

During the first game, St. Mary’s scored one run in the seventh and two in the fifth before the Eagles were able to scrape across a run in the top of the seventh inning. Price scored and Duran advanced to third on a wild pitch, before the Rattlers were able to force three outs and end the game. Strobel and Duran both went 1-3 at the plate.

Senior Dalton Rentz (4-2) picked up the loss for the Eagles on the mound, giving up six hits and two earned runs before Fusselman and Blass relieved him.

Despite outhitting the Rattlers 10-8 and leading 3-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Rattlers managed an unearned run in the sixth and two earned runs in the bottom of the seventh to take back the lead during the second game of the series.

During the second inning, Wages grounded out to second base, scoring Kuwitzky before Paul singled through to the left side, advancing sophomore Isaac Holt to second and scoring Strobel. In the fifth inning, Baxter advanced to second on an error by the infield, before being thrown out at home by the second baseman. The play still produced an Eagle run, however, as Kennedy crossed the plate for Oklahoma Christian. Holt went 2-3 at the plate, while Paul and freshman Zac Bycko went 2-4.

Rodery (2-1) took the loss on the mound for the Eagles, giving up two earned runs on two hits after relieving starter McAlister.

During the final game of the conference matchup, the Eagles remained scoreless until the top of the eighth inning. Despite outhitting the Rattlers 10-9, St. Mary’s scored one run in each of the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings to claim the victory.

In the top of the eighth, senior Kolton Brown singled through to the right side, advancing Baxter to second base and scoring Price in the Eagles’ sole run of the game. Strobel went 3-4 with a walk at the plate, with Brown also going 3-4 with an RBI. The Eagles stranded 12 runners over the course of the game.

Senior Jake Collins (0-1) picked up the conference loss, giving up six hits and three earned runs during his 5.1 innings of work. He was relieved by Moore, who struck out two and allowed three hits and an earned run during 2.2 innings.

“This last weekend, our pitching staff was phenomenal,” Kuwitzky said. “They gave us a very good chance to win all three games, we just did not have the run support to do it. We hit the ball decently well, outhitting St. Mary’s in two of the three games, but just could not seem to scratch runs across when we had opportunities.”

In their first game after spring break, the Eagles traveled to Durant, OK, to face Southeastern Oklahoma State University on Tuesday. Oklahoma Christian opened the second inning by scoring nine runs and added another in the fourth.

In the second, sophomore Josh Garbrecht singled up the middle, scoring Kennedy and advancing Duran to third. A single bunt by Bycho scored Duran, while Garbrecht scored on a passed ball. Holt then singled to center field, scoring Bycho and a bases-loaded walk by Paul would score Wages from third base.

Rodery blasted an inside-the-park home run to center field in the sixth inning, scoring himself and Bycko. During the top of the eighth, Price doubled to left field, scoring Baxter. Garbrecht went 3-3 at the plate with an RBI.

The Eagles posted two more runs in the top of the sixth inning to make it a 12-0 ballgame, but the Savage Storm answered with five runs in the bottom of the sixth. Both teams added two runs apiece in the seventh innings and one in the eighth, with Southeastern Oklahoma scoring once more in the bottom of the ninth.

Despite bases-loaded during the final play of the game, the Eagles were able to secure a 15-9 victory over the Savage Storm.

Brown (3-3) picked up the win for the Eagles in the circle, giving up three hits and striking out four in his five innings of work.

Oklahoma Christian is currently ranked eighth in the Heartland Conference standings with a 1-5 conference record. They are 14-14 overall this season.

“We need to have a good week of practice this week,” Kuwitzky said. “I would like to see our team put everything together here pretty soon.”

The Eagles will host conference opponent Texas A&M International University in a three-game series tomorrow and Friday. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.

Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information office.

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