In their first seven games of the 2019 season, the Oklahoma Christian University baseball team lost just one game, recording two wins against last season’s NCAA Division II tournament contenders.
Senior Zachary Pape, a pitcher for the Eagles, said the team has set a main goal for this year, which has allowed them to create a tone of victory for the 2019 season.
“A main team goal this season is to go out and win the week,” Pape said. “Whether it is practice or a game, we want to feel like we went out there and gave everything we had to win.”
Before their loss to Texas A&M University-Kingsville Feb. 8, the Eagles recorded their best start since the rebirth of Oklahoma Christian baseball in 2008.
Graduate student Garrett Wages said the 6-1 start to the season set a positive tone for the remainder of the season and had a positive impact on team chemistry.
“It was eye-opening,” Wages said. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect. This is one of the youngest teams I’ve been around. Being one of the few seniors, I didn’t know how the freshmen were going to react to playing Division II baseball, but they have done great so far.”
The Eagles opened their season at the Edmond First Pitch Invitational at Wendell Simmons Field in Edmond, OK. On the first day of the invitational, Feb. 1, Oklahoma Christian defeated Pittsburg State University in 11 innings, 6-5.
In the ninth inning, the Eagles were down by one run, 4-5, before senior Hunter Markwardt hit a homerun to tie the game and send it to extra innings. Then, in the 11th inning, junior Abe Spencer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give the Eagles the win.
On the following two days of the invitational, Oklahoma Christian recorded big wins over Missouri Southern State University, 11-5, and a last season Division II tournament team, the University of Central Oklahoma, 8-5.
After the three-win start, Wages said this successful beginning and this year’s team has felt way different than past seasons, giving the team a renewed energy, which is much needed.
“We have guys on this team that will do anything for anyone,” Wages said. “We are a super deep team filled with talent. By having that, there are some guys left out of the lineup who don’t get to play. Those guys are being extremely great teammates and leaders by cheering on the guys that are in their spot. Everyone wants to win; they don’t care about statistics.”
For their next stint, the Eagles traveled to Texas to play four games in the Alpine Fresh 4-Him Classic Feb. 7-9.
In their first game against Heartland Conference opponent Newman University, the Eagles recorded a dominating win in just seven innings of play, beating the Jets 14-4.
Wages went four-for-four with three RBIs, and freshman Kevin Collyar and senior Austin Stokes each hit in two runs to contribute to the Eagles’ victory.
Senior Connor Litterel started at pitcher for Oklahoma Christian and recorded the win, throwing for five innings and allowing two unearned runs in the fifth inning.
The Eagles then defeated Oklahoma Baptist University, who played in the Division II tournament last season, 10-7.
Senior Callen Crockett hit a three-run homerun in the second inning to assist the Eagles in taking an 8-0 lead in three innings of play. Adding to the offense for the Eagles, senior Alex Garcia went three-of-four while batting. Freshman Blake Empkey, senior Errett Edwards and Collyar each finished with two hits.
Pitching for Oklahoma Christian, senior Gabe Rodery recorded the win for the Eagles, while junior Julien Ly pitched three innings and retired the final two batters to seal the win.
During the final day of the classic in Texas, Oklahoma Christian lost to a 2018 Division II national tournament contender, Texas A&M-Kingsville, 10-5. The Eagles committed nine errors in the loss.
Oklahoma Christian’s sixth win came against Colorado Christian University on Feb. 9. In eight innings of play, the Eagles won 4-1.
Senior Zachary Pape pitched for the Eagles, allowing only one run during six innings and picking up the win. Pitching two innings, sophomore Chase Berberich recorded the save.
Pape said he attributes his success against Colorado Christian to his mental strength and pre-season preparation.
“Being from Colorado, I have wanted the opportunity to throw against a collegiate team from there,” Pape said. “I would attribute my success to staying focus and competing on the mound. Even though it was cold and rainy, I didn’t let that get to my head. Whenever the weather is like that, you have to stick to your game plan and know that the opposition is dealing with the same conditions.”
For the win, Marwardt, Empkey and Edwards each finished two-of-four, while junior Berry Hunt went one-of-three, including one run.
The Eagles currently have a break until returning to play Feb. 19 in Weatherford, OK, against Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU).
As they prepare for upcoming games during a long break, Wages said the team must stay focused and take practice seriously during this week.
“We must win and improve each day,” Wages said. “We have a big game against SWOSU, followed by a series with Cameron [University]. Midweek games have been something we as a team have struggled with the past few years, so hopefully we come out ready to play.”
After the game Feb. 19, the Eagles will play their home opener Feb. 21 against William Jewell College at 2 p.m.